New NCAA Rule Changes in Plain English

Contributor Rick Paine is an expert on the college recruiting process. He is also the Director of Swimming at American College Connection (ACC). AAC is a SwimSwam Partner. 

The NCAA passed new rules yesterday that will have a huge effect on recruiting. Our own NCAA Compliance Director spent several hours on the phone with the NCAA to make sure of our interpretation of the new changes.

This only affects Division I programs.

The new rules will affect the following areas:

  • Official visits
  • Unofficial visits

Official Visits:
When: September 1 of your Junior year, effective August, 2018, except during a dead period (see below).
What: A visit becomes official if the school pays for anything other than a ticket to an on campus event. If they buy you a hot dog it becomes an official visit. Due to budgetary cutbacks many schools
don’t have the money to pay for the entire trip and may ask you to pay for your transportation to and from campus. The schools will usually pick up the tab for room and board while you are there.

Your parents may come with you on an official visit and schools are allowed to pay for their room and board while they are there, but they are not allowed to pay for their transportation. This depends
on a schools recruiting budget.

Limits: Recruits are allowed to take official visits to 5 different Division I schools in total from September 1 of your Junior year through your Senior year of High School, except during a
dead period, effective August 1, 2018.

Official visits to Division II schools are unlimited.
Official visits to Division III schools are unlimited.
Official visits to NAIA schools are unlimited.

Tip: don’t assume that a school will pay for everything on an official visit. You need to ask.

Unofficial Visits:
When: September 1 of your Junior year in High school, except during a dead period, effective

What: Unofficial visits are unlimited as long as you pay for everything on your trip. A school can provide tickets to an on-campus event while you are there. You are allowed to spend the night with the team, but you will have to pay the going rate for the dorm room or motel.

Tip: let the coach know well in advance that you are coming to campus You may visit a school prior to September 1 of your Junior year; however you are not allowed contact with anyone employed by the athletic department, effective immediately. In other words, coaches are no longer allowed to meet with a recruit or their parents on an unofficial visit before your junior year.

Verbal Commitments:
When: Anytime
What: You can give your verbal commitment to attend a school at any time and the coach can give you a verbal commitment for a scholarship offer or a spot on the team at any time. Verbal commitments are not binding, but rarely do the coaches not honor their scholarship offers. Usually it’s the recruit who backs out, if you give your word to a coach you should honor it.

Written scholarship offers still cannot be made until August 1st of the senior year, which keeps in place the prior rule.

Pay attention to admission deadlines, for merit aid, as they vary from school to school.

Dead period:
Coaches are not allowed to meet recruits face to face during a recruiting dead period. This is 48 hours prior to and 48 hours after the first day of signing periods in November and April.

Edit: After posting, the NCAA contacted ACC Recruiting to clarify an earlier misstatement made by the NCAA about written offers. An update from ACC Recruiting is below:

We have a correction on the information that we sent to SwimSwam regarding NCAA rule changes that was posted last week.

Our NCAA Compliance Director called the NCAA and was told over the phone that they were going to start allowing schools to provide a written scholarship offer prior to August 1 (the current rule) before the senior year.

We have contacted them again and apparently they are not changing the rule.

Here is the rule:

Schools are not allowed to issue a written scholarship offer to a prospect until August 1 prior to the prospect’s senior year in high school.

Sorry for the confusion.

Finding out if you have what it takes to compete in swimming at the college level is easy, and many swimmers do have the potential considering all of the options.  Go to www.ACCrecruits and submit a Free Profile.

ACC Recruiting is a SwimSwam ad partner  Go here and learn more about ACC and their team of college swimming experts. 

Courtesy of ACC Recruiting, a SwimSwam partner.

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3 years ago

Thanks so much for the clarifications, especially around the unofficial visit changes and when scholarships can be offered in writing. Overall, I like it and think it increases the transparency of the process. Junior commitments are here to stay so let’s make it official and reduce the influence of unofficial early grade visits that benefit some but not all.

Reply to  LessConfused
3 years ago

I submit that sending a 15 year old on an overnight trip to hang out with 22 year olds is a recipe for disaster. I hate this, I hate that the ncaa isn’t being the grown up and stepping in to cool everyone down, and I hate that the process is skewing earlier like this. It benefits no one.

Reply to  Chestrockwell
3 years ago

This is the best argument against the change I’ve heard yet. I think schools are going to have to reimagine training trips. More parental involvement, more closely-supervised activities. There’s not SUPPOSED to be alcohol given to recruits now, but anybody who thinks that doesn’t happen is kidding themselves. After the Louisville basketball situation, a prudent coach would put in a policy resembling ‘no private parties with recruits.” Take them bowling, take them to a pool hall, take them to a football game, whatever, then send them back to the hotel.

Reply to  Braden Keith
3 years ago

I wish that was the rule…to send the high school students back to a hotel with a parent. And it doesn’t matter if your child is a junior or senior, they shouldn’t be given alcohol at college parties.

3 years ago

Regulating who buys hot dogs… meanwhile the monopoly NCAA made over $1B in un-taxable revenue last year. Sounds fair to me.

Reply to  Dman
3 years ago

Ever check out their expenses, too? Don’t get blinded by just what’s brought in….

Rick Paine
3 years ago

As of now there no dates to regulate when a school can provide a written offer. We think the NCAA will close that loop hole

Steve Schaffer
Reply to  Rick Paine
3 years ago


What proposal that passed eliminated the existing rule of no written offers prior to August 1 of senior year? I cannot find where that rule was changed by any of the new proposals passed.

Rick Paine
Reply to  Steve Schaffer
3 years ago

Steve, The NCAA told our DIrector of Compliance over the phone that the NCAA is leaving it up to each institution to determine when to issue a written offer. Let me know if you find out something different.

Steve Schaffer
Reply to  Rick Paine
3 years ago

Rick, it looks like you found out that there was NOT legislation passed changing the August 1 date. Reading through the legislation actually addressed by the Council I did not come across anything that addressed written offers at all.

It would not surprise, however, me if future legislation does result is a specific change allowing written offers in the junior year, now that we have junior year official visits.

Rick Paine
Reply to  Steve Schaffer
3 years ago

The NCAA told us over the phone about the change in dates for a written scholarship offer. We talked with them again today and they changed their story. Next time we will get it in writing. I agree that they should make the change

3 years ago

What about off-campus contact? Can this happen in your junior year and is it effective immediately?

3 years ago

Can you clarify for current juniors? Besides the dead period that begins 8/1, can current juniors have an official visit or do they need to wait until 9/1?

3 years ago

I just reread it. Forget my question about the dead period. Basically current juniors take do official visits starting on 8/1- effectively giving them 1 addition month.

3 years ago

This has been going on for a long time. Recruit kids in 7th and 8th grade BEFORE NCAA rules kick in….

Rick Paine
Reply to  Read
3 years ago

In the past it used to be a huge advantage for us to start working with a high school freshman with recruiting. Unfortunately now it is becoming a necessity.

3 years ago

So, a “written offer” is a NLI? Are the signing periods still the same? Or are they throwing caution to the wind and saying Juniors can now sign a (binding) NLI if a school decides to make a written offer? What about coaches contacting the athletes? Is that remaining July 1 of the summer before the athlete’s senior year? Or is that now July 1 of the summer before the Junior year?
Believe it or not, other sports like women’s lacrosse frequently have athletes commit to a school by their sophomore year and sometimes as early as 7th grade. These changes really reign those sports in in terms of early contact with the athletes.
It seems to me… Read more »

Rick Paine
Reply to  SwimCoachDad
3 years ago

Swimcoachdad, and NLI is a National Letter of Intent that is issued to the recruit and is their binding agreement to attend a particular school. A written offer is the school’s actual scholarship offer. You can’t have one without the other.

The official signing periods have not changed. The coaches can email and text a recruit beginning Sept. 1 of their junior. They can’t call them until July 1 after their junior year.

The rule changes only pertain to only D-I schools.

I agree with you that we will start seeing a lot of transfers. The NCAA is actually examining a proposal to make transferring much easier. I just heard from Rich DeSelm, head coach at North Carolina and he… Read more »