When the NCAA Division I Board of Directors meets on January 19th in Grapevine, Texas, just outside of Dallas, they will vote on some significant rules changes that will affect the way that college coaches are able to recruit athletes. The rules are mostly designed for, and will mostly impact, college football and basketball programs with huge recruiting budgets, but all sports will likely feel some impact from the changes.
The overall move is toward relaxing rules involved in recruiting and giving coaches and student-athletes more freedom during the process.
The biggest impacts on swimming are Proposals No. 13-2 and 13-3.
13-2 would establish a uniform contact date for coaches to begin calling student-athletes after July 1st of their sophomore year. Many sports (basketball, volleyball) allow a June 15th after sophomore year timeline, but in swimming a coach cannot call a student-athlete until after July 1 of your junior year. Swimmers can call a coach as a sophomore or a junior, but a coach cannot call a student-athlete. This move is supported to create more uniform rules across sports, rather than the patchwork calendar that exists now.
Proposal 13-3 would “remove restrictions governing modes and numerical limitations on recruiting communication,” which has received support from a “working group” of university presidents that has met effectively as a discussion committee to vet these ideas out, as well as the student-athlete advisory committee. This has been a big topic of debate, given the various new forms of communication that are available for communications between coaches and athletes. The opposite side of the coin is a fear that coaches could overwhelm student-athletes and distract them from focusing on their education and training.
Rule 13-5-A will remove restrictions on any mailed recruiting materials, which is a move supported by student athletes who said that mailed material generally has little impact on an athlete’s decision anyway.
Some other rules that don’t majorly affect recruiting, but would have their impact felt, include proposal 13-7 which eliminates restrictions on publicizing recruits once they’ve signed a National Letter of Intent. You’ll notice now that coaches often won’t discuss recruits in interviews, even after signed, as this + a press release might violate rules.
Proposal 16-2 would be especially significant to athletes in Olympic sports, which would allow the schools, the USOC and other national governing bodies to provide actual and necessary expenses for a student-athlete to receive awards, meaning that college athletes would be able to be reimbursed either by the school or USA Swimming to travel, for example, to the Golden Goggles awards, as well as their parents and other relatives.
One more rule under the “16’s” involving money that has a big effect on swimming is rule 16-8, which would allow student-athletes to receive “necessary expenses and reasonable benefits” to pay for national team practice and competition, as well as allowing schools to pay for swimmers’ travel to national team tryouts and championship events. That could have huge, wide-reaching effects in swimming, and specifically would tilt the scales even further toward large, well-endowed programs. Given what we’ve seen in other ruling by the NCAA, especially in rulings allowing athletes in competition for championships to sit out of classes while training for championship events, this could have a huge, wide-ranging impact on allowing schools to pay for athletes’ travel to many different USA Swimming events, even if it’s not for purposes of representing the school.
A full list of proposals recommended by the Working Group are below, and read more in the official press release here.
- 2-1, which establishes the commitments that guide the underlying operating bylaws. This includes a commitment to fair competition, which “acknowledges that variability will exist among members in advantages, including facilities, geographic location and resources and that such variability should not be justification for future legislation.”
- 11-2, which would eliminate the rules defining recruiting coordination functions that must be performed only by a head or assistant coach.
- 11-3-B, which would prohibit the live scouting of future opponents except in limited circumstances.
- 11-4, which would remove limits on the number of coaches who can recruit off-campus at any one time, the so-called “baton rule.”
- 12-1, which would establish a uniform definition of actual and necessary expenses.
- 12-2, which would allow the calculation of actual and necessary expenses to be based on the total over a calendar year instead of an event-by-event basis. The working group recommended the calculation change for both prospective and enrolled student-athletes.
- 12-3, which would allow a student-athlete to receive $300 more than actual and necessary expenses, provided the expenses come from an otherwise permissible source.
- 12-4, which would permit individuals to receive actual and necessary competition-related expenses from outside sponsors, so long as the person is not an agent, booster, or representative of a professional sports organization.
- 12-5, which would allow student-athletes in sports other than tennis to receive up to actual and necessary competition-related expenses based on performance from an amateur team or event sponsor.
- 12-6, which would allow student-athletes and prospects to receive actual and necessary expenses for training, coaching, health insurance, etc. from a governmental entity.
- 13-1, which will allow schools to treat prospects like student-athletes for purposes of applying recruiting regulations once a National Letter of Intent or signed offer of admission or financial aid is received.
- 13-2, which will allow off-campus contact with recruits beginning the first day of junior year in high school and communication with recruits on or after July 1 after the completion of the recruit’s sophomore year in high school.
- 13-3, which would eliminate restrictions on methods and modes of communication
- 13-4, which would eliminate the requirement that institutions provide materials such as the banned-drug list and Academic Progress Rate data to recruits.
- 13-5-A, which would eliminate restrictions on sending printed recruiting materials to recruits.
- 13-7, which would eliminate restrictions on publicity once a prospective student-athlete has signed a National Letter of Intent or written offer of financial aid or admission.
- 13-8, which would deregulate camps and clinics employment rules related to both recruits and current student-athletes. Senior football prospects would be allowed to participate in camps and clinics.
- 14-1, which eliminates academic regulations that are covered elsewhere and directly supported by institutional academic policy.
- 16-1, which would allow institutions, conferences or the NCAA national office to provide an award to student-athletes any time after initial full-time enrollment.
- 16-2, which would allow conferences, an institution, the US Olympic Committee, a national governing body or the awarding agency to provide actual and necessary expenses for a student-athlete to receive a non-institutional award or recognition for athletics or academic accomplishments. Expenses could also be provided for parents/legal guardians, a spouse or other relatives as well.
- 16-3, which would allow institutions, conferences or the NCAA to pay for other academic support, career counseling or personal development services that support the success of the student-athlete.
- 16-4, which would allow institutions, conferences or the NCAA to pay for medical and related expenses for a student-athlete.
- 16-5, which, except for Bylaw 188.8.131.52, would change all Bylaw 16 references to a student-athlete’s spouse, parents, family members or children to “family member,” establish a specific definition of “family member,” and permit specified benefits to such individuals
- 16-6, which would allow institutions to provide reasonable entertainment in conjunction with competition or practice.
- 16-7, which would allow schools to provide actual and necessary expenses to student-athletes representing the institution in practice and competition (including expenses for activities/travel that are incidental to practice or competition) as well as in noncompetitive events like goodwill tours and media appearances.
- 16-8, which would allow student-athletes to receive actual and necessary expenses and “reasonable benefits” associated with a national team practice and competition. The proposal would also allow institutions to pay for any number of national team tryouts and championship events.