The College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association (CSCAA) has requested that the NCAA extend its recruiting restrictions for college programs well beyond the current moratorium, which expires at the end of August.
In a letter released on Tuesday, the CSCAA asked the NCAA to extend the recruiting dead period until December and to extend a moratorium to on-campus visits through March of 2021.
An NCAA “dead period” restricts coaches from meeting with student-athletes in person on campus or off. The NCAA first put a dead period in place relating to the global coronavirus pandemic in mid-March, and recently extended it until at least the end of August. In making that decision, M. Grace Calhoun, the chair of the Division I Council Coordination Committee (CCC), said that the decision was made to allow “coaches to focus on the student-athletes who may be returning to campus.”
CSCAA Executive Director Greg Earhart laid out 3 specific concerns for requesting the extension related to the coronavirus outbreak. Last year, when the NCAA was changing recruiting restrictions, the CSCAA has also asked the NCAA to limit early recruiting in swimming, though not for coronavirus reasons.
- Student-Athlete Health and Safety – Absent a vaccine, effective testing, and contact-tracing, on-campus visits are far too great of a risk to take during the season. Placing current student-athletes at risk of infection is simply irresponsible. By postponing visits, institutions can minimize this risk and enable programs to complete the 2020-21 season.
- Cost – Eliminating Fall visits would produce immediate and significant savings for programs that are currently wrestling with significant losses in revenue. To date, Division I coaches have already trimmed a collective $6.2 million from their budgets.
- Competitive Balance – Coaches are adamant in their desire for the consistent application of recruiting restrictions throughout. With states and campuses reopening in different stages and under widely varying levels of restriction this would provide a more level playing field.
USA Swimming’s next scheduled national championship events, which will be the US Open from December 2-5 and Winter Juniors from December 9-12, would fall after the CSCAA’s requested end period. Those meets provide crucial facetime between college coaches, club coaches, and prospective student-athletes in a normal year; given the current restrictions, these meets could become even more crucial.
April marks the end of the NCAA season, and not allowing recruits on campus until after the season would help mitigate risks of impacting the competitive year.
The CSCAA says that in developing the proposal, they considered the relative risk of a coach travelling to a meet and being able to self-quarantine from their college team once they get back, as compared to a prospective student-athlete coming to campus and potentially exposing an entire college team to the virus.
“We appreciate the NCAA’s Council Coordination Committee’s quick response and flexibility to a rapidly-changing environment,” said the CSCAA’s new president Joe Dykstra, the head coach at Utah. “At the same time, both coaches and PSA’s find themselves living month-to-month and this would provide everyone an opportunity to enter the recruiting process in an educated way.”
According to the CSCAA, the movement for this request came from coaching groups in 3 Power 5 conferences (which according to one coach included the Pac-12 and Big Ten).
Earhart says that he and director of member and legislative services Sam Barany reached out to take a pulse of both their swimming membership, and of other supports.
“Support was strong to begin, and unanimous among our Board and Executive Board,” Earhart says. Earhart says that as they’ve gone through this process, several coaches have called to change their stance.
At last check, Earhart says that around 87-88% of coaches polled were in favor of this move.
SwimSwam reached out to a number of Division I head coaches and recruiting coordinators and received mixed responses.
Some were against the idea of extending a ban on campus visits prematurely, saying that they would instead support a modification of official visits to reduce the risk of spreading infections. Others supported the CSCAA’s ban, citing similar safety concerns.
One interesting thread of responses to our straw poll came from at least 3 NCAA Division I coaches who told SwimSwam that they were generally in favor of rolling back the recruiting cycle to later in athletes’ high school careers, so that they were in favor of the CSCAA’s proposal for those reasons that extend beyond the connection to coronavirus. That is in line with the CSCAA’s previous requests to limit early recruiting.
NCAA Division I schools have begun welcoming student-athletes back on campus, though many schools have paused that after outbreaks either on campus or in the local area. The University of Arizona announced this week that they were delaying their student-athletes’ return to campus because of an outbreak of cases in Pima County, though only 1 Arizona student-athlete had tested positive.