IOWA CITY — In late January, the Division I Board of Directors, an 18-member panel of college presidents, decided if you can’t beat them, join them.
With so many avenues of communication opening up in the world of recruiting, the NCAA basically threw up its hands and opened Pandora’s Box when it passed 25 of 26 proposals, all submitted by the Rules Working Committee and supported by the Division I Legislative Council, to deregulate the rulebook.
These moves are set to become bylaws Aug. 1. The biggest pieces of legislation will drastically change the recruiting climate.
Proposal 13-3 removes the numerical limitations and modes of recruiting communication, including text messaging, for coaches to recruits. Beginning with the 2014 recruiting class, college coaches can call, text and communicate privately by any methods available without restrictions. No more one call per week, no more dead periods and no more ban on text messaging.
Starting in August, it will be OK for a coach to call a prospect 10 times a day and text him constantly.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was hazy on what it could mean for his program. He has been recruiting and Iowa does have a couple of spots to fill on its coaching staff.
“We have a meeting on Monday. I’ll get educated at the Big Ten meetings,” he said. “But there is some curious things in there. We’ll just have to see how they all go, how it all shakes out. I’m not sure it’s the final edition but we’ll see.”
Eric Johnson, Iowa’s recruiting coordinator, is in the middle of this stuff and had an interested ear turned to it during the American Football Coaches Association Convention last month in Nashville, Tenn.
Iowa had 16 commitments by the end of July last summer. That’s the speed of recruiting now and it’s about to kick into hyper drive.
“With these new rules, it’s going to be sped up even more,” said Johnson, who’s been on Ferentz’s staff for all 14 years at Iowa. “It’s not even social media, but it’s the phone calls that are going to come into play now.”
Proposal 13-2 was tabled by the board until April. It would establish a uniform start date for recruiting contact, initiated by college coaches, of July 1 after a prospect’s sophomore year. If 13-2 passes, prospects in their junior years can expect up to six visits per college at home and school from coaches during the contact period.
“You’re able to start calling kids on a daily basis on July 1 after their sophomore year,” Johnson said. “It’s going toward basketball recruiting, but the difference is the kids aren’t physically ready to be evaluated like a basketball player. You’re going to have to take a little bit of a leap of faith and call kids who might not develop, but you still have to gain their interest.
“Everything is going to move so much faster. You’re going to be able to do in-home contacts with the kids in December and January of their junior years. The process is just going to be sped up and it’s going to put a lot of burden on the head coaches.”
Head coaches are, after all, the face of the program. In some cases, perhaps Iowa, a prospect might know the coach as well as the program, so they’ll want to hear from Ferentz.
So, in addition to coaching the team and everything that goes with that, Ferentz will have to carve out a certain portion of his day to calling high school players who are barely out of their sophomore years.
The Board of Directors also eliminated a rule that allows only full-time coaches to serve as recruiting coordinators. It lifted limitations on the number of coaches who can recruit off campus at one time. High school seniors will now be allowed to attend camps and clinics on campus. Another new rule allows a prospect who signs a letter of intent or offer of admission to be treated as a college student-athlete for purposes of applying recruiting regulations.
Ferentz said he can see Iowa offering more high school sophomores. For the first time, Iowa has a recruiting board tracking sophomores.
“In the perfect world I’d like to evaluate guys after they’ve played an entire high school career,” Ferentz said, “but that’s not going to happen anymore.”
Full-time recruiting staffs are starting to be modeled in some programs. That will could happen at Iowa.
Ferentz said he understands the NCAA’s intent. It can’t pretend to police the million different ways coaches can communicate with recruits. But it will take money to build recruiting staffs, and that’s what has Ferentz’s attention. He sees an opening for stratification along the lines of Major League Baseball, comparing the New York Yankees to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
They’re in the same league, but they’re not really.
“My fear in simplistic terms would be that I hate to see college football or college athletics become Major League Baseball, with all respect to Major League Baseball,” Ferentz said. “The Yankees, they start in the inside lane every year. They’ve got the biggest payroll and so they get to start on the inside lane.”
Ferentz doesn’t want “lanes” coming to the Big Ten, but acknowledges they might already be there.
“The best pro league going is the National Football League, from my seat, and there is parity in that league,” he said. “There’s competitive balance, and I think that’s important.
“I think that’s one of the great things about the Big Ten. Everybody lines up in August with a chance to win it. History has proven that, going back to 1981 [when Iowa broke through and won a share of the Big Ten]. It’s been proven, so to me that’s good for fan interest, that’s good for the league, that’s good for everybody.
“How you get your hands around that, that’s a little tougher equation. I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about it, but to me, in the ideal world, that’s what you want. And you want all teams participating to be governed by the same body, so there’s a level field as much as you can. I’m not sure that’s exactly the way it is right now in college football, but we may be headed that way. I’m not worldly enough to know that, but I think the potential for that is certainly there.”
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