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New NCAA rules open up recruiting

The NCAA approved a long list of rule changes this weekend in Dallas to take the first step toward establishing a new “don’t sweat the small stuff” philosophy.

Notre Dame recruiting coordinator Tony Alford will be able to reach out to recruits far more often under new rules passed this weekend.

The revamped rules tear a sizable chunk of pages from the organization’s compliance tome, making it a more streamlined, user-friendly set of regulations. The Div. I Board of Directors approved 25 of the 26 proposed changes, which ran the gamut from text messaging recruits to allowing presenters to cover the cost of travel for postseason awards ceremonies.

Compliance officers have been calling for a more laissez faire NCAA for the better part of a decade. Brent Moberg, Notre Dame’s director of compliance, sees Saturday’s rule changes as a big step in the right direction.

“The whole idea of deregulation and trying to remove certain things, it’s been a battle,” he said. “It’s been an ongoing process, but this has been the biggest concerted focus and effort.”

The goal of this current push, laid out by NCAA president Mark Emmert in the summer of 2011, was to revise a convoluted system with common sense in mind. Eliminating the need to enforce rules about what size envelope you send to a recruit’s home or what spreads athletes can put on their bagels — Yes, the infamous cream cheese rule, the poster child of the NCAA’s inane nit-pickiness, has been scratched — should make it easier for universities and the entire organization to focus on ousting major corruption like recent cases at Penn Sate and Miami.

Some of the more impactful changes will be felt on the recruiting front. As of Aug. 1, college coaches will be able to send as many text and social media messages as they want to recruits. Restrictions on what materials can be mailed to prospects will be gone. The board also nixed the rule that limits how many assistant coaches can be on the road recruiting at the same time.

A mountain of work awaits coaching staffs that want to remain competitive in the hunt for top high school talent. They’ll get an assist from another new rule, which allows athletic departments to hire a recruiting coordinator that is not a member of the actual coaching staff. The only restriction for the new position is that he or she will not be able to travel to visit prospective athletes.

Programs with deep pockets can now legally maintain a group of employees solely to contact recruits. Many of the soon-to-be-scrapped rules were created to avoid such a competitive advantage over the have-nots. The board of directors decided a truly equal playing field isn’t realistic and any attempt to create one causes more problems than it solves.

“When this process is complete, Division I should operate with rules that create more ways to provide for our student-athletes and are easier to understand and apply,” Board chair Nathan Hatch, a former Notre Dame administrator, said in a statement on NCAA.org.

Irish commit Justin Brent has 12 more months of countless coaching contact ahead of him.

It appears, though, that the burden leaving the NCAA enforcers due to these changes will fall on the shoulders of prospective players who are already inundated with endless correspondence from coaches and schools. Denny Pelley has coached high school football at Speedway (Ind.) High School for 23 years and he already sees the impact a heavy dose of attention can have on his players.

“It can get crazy,” Pelley said. “It makes it tough for the kids. …You can only imagine about when you can bombard a kid all day.”

One of Pelley’s star wide receivers, rising senior Justin Brent, verbally committed to Notre Dame last summer. Brent will still have another full year of fielding messages from other college coaches trying to change his mind before he can sign a letter of intent.

He said he regularly hears from other programs on Facebook now. While the initial surge of attention was fun for him, he’s not looking forward to another 12 months of fending off suitors.

“I could see that definitely being more of a problem than anything else because you have to figure out what to say to all these coaches without being disrespectful,” Brent said.

Some recruits that Brent knows have changed their minds because the school they originally committed to “wasn’t showing them enough love.” As long as coaches know the threat of losing a talented player exists, they’ll continue to text and reach out by any means possible.

Moberg said the adverse effects these new rules might have on high school students was certainly discussed during the decision-making process. Coaching staffs will need to find the proper balance between keeping tabs on their recruits and harassing them.

Other New Rules
Other notable changes among the 25 that will go into effect on Aug. 1 include:

- Schools will be considerably limited on the amount of in-person scouting they can do on future opponents.

- Schools will be able to pay for medical expenses for student-athletes.

- Schools no longer have to provide information on banned substances lists and Academic Progress Reports to recruits.

- The only measure that wasn’t passed during the meeting was a suggestion to create one calendar date when recruiting for all sports can legally begin. The board plans to revisit that motion in the spring.

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