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NCAA adopts new regulation to slow early recruiting

04/28/2018, 6:45am PDT
By Tom Mauldin

The NCAA Division I Council passed a regulation setting Sept. 1 of a prospective student-athlete’s junior year as the start date for all softball recruiting contact.
The ruling is effective immediately, pending NCAA Board of Directors approval.  
This means that all recruiting communications between DI softball coaches and prospective student athlete (PSA) and their families will not be allowed prior to Sept. 1 of the junior year. In short, verbal commitments will not be allowed prior Sept. 1 of the student athlete’s junior year. Current verbal commitments are grandfathered and will not be impacted by the new ruling
The NFCA considers this regulation a huge win for the “softball community.”
“I am very pleased that the NCAA DI Council listened to the entire softball community and passed legislation that will truly address the problem of early recruiting,” said Tennessee co-head coach Karen Weekly, NFCA Board President. “A special thank you to everyone in the NFCA office for their perseverance on behalf of this legislation. Without their organization and passion, it would not have been possible.”
Early recruiting and early verbal commitments were hot topics at the 2017 NFCA Convention. Coaches discussed the problem of committing PSAs as young as sixth and seventh grade. The majority of coaches agreed that a defined rule governing all recruiting contact would slow the process.
A press release from the NCAA noted that softball is following the “lacrosse model” passed last year by the NCAA. It set Sept.1 of junior year as the start date for all recruiting contact and became the definitive preference of the softball coaches after considering other potential options.
“Getting something in place as soon as possible was a priority,” said NFCA Executive Director Carol Bruggeman. “This is a defining moment for the softball coaches, fans, and student-athletes.”
September 1 of junior year will be the start date for official visits, unofficial visits and recruiting conversations at camps and clinics for all sports except for football and basketball. Since these proposals passed, softball’s request to include incoming telephone calls and off-campus visits were voted on and approved as “noncontroversial legislation.” This means that for softball, all recruiting contact will begin Sept. 1, junior year.
“The real winners are the softball prospective student-athletes, who can now make informed college decisions at an age-appropriate time," said Bruggeman.
She also noted that for the new rule to work, third parties, “including travel ball and high school coaches,” may not be used to circumvent NCAA recruiting rules.
The new regulation also means messages may not be passed through any third parties in an effort to continue recruiting communications between coaches and PSAs; this would be considered an NCAA rule violation. Consequences for NCAA rule violations can vary based on the facts and history of the parties involved. For many coaches, an NCAA rule violation can be grounds for termination.  
This new recruiting contact rule does not affect the status of current verbal commitments, as the NCAA does not recognize or legislate such agreements. However, this new rule does govern all communications between any PSA and any DI softball coach, regardless of verbal commitments or otherwise.
Bruggeman said, “For some PSA, this means having committed to play at a program and then not being able to communicate with that coach for a few years. This will be challenging, but the bright line needed to be drawn and there are no exceptions.”
The new NCAA D1 ruling does not impact NCAA D2, D3, NAIA or the Northwest Athletic Conference.
Editor's Note: The NCAA supplied the following educational column to Fastpitch Northwest as it reflects the most recent Question and Answer Document associated with the proposal.
Q - What is a coach permitted to say if a prospective student-athlete initiates a call or contact with an institution's coach prior to September 1 of the prospective student-athlete's junior year?
A - The coach may not engage in any recruiting conversations. However, the coach may confirm the prospective student-athlete's age, explain the recruiting rules and then must end the call or contact.
Q - During an institutional camp or clinic, may a coach have recruiting conversations with a prospective student-athlete prior to September 1 of his or her junior year?
A - No.
Q - During an institutional camp or clinic, may a coach provide a campus tour to a prospective student-athlete prior to September 1 of his or her junior year?
A - Yes. A campus tour would be permissible; however, no recruiting conversations may occur.
Q - During an institutional camp or clinic, may a coach provide an informational session about the recruiting process and the student-athlete experience to a prospective student-athlete prior to September 1 of his or her junior year?
A - Yes. A general informational session would be permissible; however, no institution-specific information may occur at these informational sessions. Recruiting conversations are not permissible.                                                         
Q - May an institution's coach send recruiting messages through a prospective student-athlete's high school/club coach or another third party?
A - No. If a coach cannot contact a prospective student-athlete directly, then he or she cannot send recruiting messages indirectly through a high school/club coach or another third party.
Q - May an institution's coach have evaluative conversations (e.g., regarding athletics ability) with a prospective student-athlete's high school/club coach before September 1 of the prospective student-athlete's junior year?
A - Yes. However, these conversations are not permitted to be used for the purpose of indirectly sending recruiting messages (e.g., verbal offer of aid) to a prospective student-athlete.

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