NCAA Recruiting Cabinet Proposes End to Early Verbal Offers of Aid

NCAA Recruiting Cabinet Proposes End to Early Verbal Offers of Aid

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The Division I Recruiting and Athletics Personnel Issues Cabinet has proposed legislation to stop early verbal offers of financial aid to prospective student-athletes in all sports. The proposal is one of the first to come out of the cabinet’s comprehensive review of the recruiting model.

Some coaches in high-profile sports have extended scholarship offers to prospects as early as eighth grade, and members of the Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee voiced concerns about the ethics of such tactics at the 2010 NCAA Convention.

Cabinet chair Petrina Long, senior associate athletics director at UCLA, said the group heard from coaches – and prospects and their families – who felt pressured to make decisions earlier without the necessary academic qualifications or information. The media attention on such offers also pressured coaches who felt they needed to “keep up” or lose out on potentially outstanding prospects, Long said.

The proposal would prohibit verbal offers of athletically related financial aid before July 1 after a prospective student-athlete’s junior year in high school. The proposal would also require institutions have at least a five-semester or seven-quarter high school transcript on file at the institution before extending any verbal offer of aid.

"Tying it into academics was critical," Long said. "We felt that the fifth term is a point at which someone on your campus can evaluate whether that young person is on track for your particular institution’s academic entrance criteria. We thought it was a reasonable compromise."

Though most of the media attention surrounding early offers of aid has focused on basketball and football, coaches in other sports are not immune to the issue. In 2008, the Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association was instrumental in introducing legislation that would have accomplished the same thing in their sport only. That proposal, among other women’s lacrosse recruiting reforms, was defeated in the 2008-09 legislative cycle because the cabinet wanted to examine the entire recruiting model instead of making quick fixes in individual sports.

Long acknowledged that if adopted, the proposed rule would be difficult for compliance officials to monitor. She said, though, that the membership’s clear desire to address the issue superseded monitoring concerns.

"People who don't plan to follow the rules don't follow the rules whether we can monitor them or not," she said. "There has to be an agreement among coaches and administrators that the spirit of what we’re doing is as important as the rule itself, and the spirit is clearly that we do not want this behavior to go on."

"Can a coach purchase a cell phone, call someone, and throw it away? Yes. Is that the kind of people we really want in this business? No."

Telephone calls

The cabinet also sponsored a proposal that would provide more flexibility to coaches calling prospects during a specific time period, essentially applying a rule that currently exists in men’s basketball to all sports except football.

The proposal would allow institutions to make one telephone call per month to a prospect, parent or legal guardian on or after June 15 after the prospect’s sophomore year in high school through July 31 after the junior year in high school. Beginning August 1 before the senior year, an institution is permitted to make two telephone calls to an individual prospect or parent or guardian per week. The proposal would also permit institutions to make one call per week to a two-year or four-year college prospect.

This proposal came from some of the reaction the cabinet received to the different recruiting models sent to the membership for review earlier this spring.

"We did get some interest in being able to give folks some level of access – not constant access, but some meaningful period when the coaches and student-athletes and their families can interact to see what is a good fit academically and athletically," Long said.

She called the proposal "a compromise position" that gives institutions the opportunity to see some academic progress and allow limited access so that coaches can begin to build relationships with recruits and their parents.

The cabinet also sponsored legislation that would:

  • Prohibit prospects from making official visits to the institution in which the prospect has signed a National Letter of Intent or accepted a written offer of admission and/or financial aid.
  • Remove all restrictions on the forms and frequency of communication with a prospect the calendar day after the prospect has either signed an NLI or accepted a written offer of admission and/or financial aid or the institution has received a financial deposit in response to the institution’s offer of admission.

Many of these proposals received overwhelming support in a survey of the membership, but the changes represent only the beginning of what the cabinet expects to be a comprehensive process to unite most sports under similar recruiting rules. Long said that while the amount of feedback from different constituencies was heartening, there wasn’t a lot of clear consensus on specific changes.

"There were some trends, so we’re going to dig a little deeper into some of these areas," she said. "We're going to go into some of the other areas like contacts and camps and clinics. We’re trying to do it in an orderly fashion and continue to seek comment."

All legislation proposed by the cabinet will be introduced into the 2010-11 legislative cycle. The Legislative Council will cast its first official votes on the proposals at the 2011 NCAA Convention in San Antonio. Proposals could be adopted in either January or April.

Release courtesy NCAA

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