January 21, 2013 PRINT Bookmark and Share

NCAA Rule Changes Affect Scouting, Recruiting

by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor

The annual NCAA Convention, held last week in Dallas, centered largely on a push to make a better Division I rules manual, one that in the words of the NCAA was "more meaningful, enforceable and supportive of student-athlete success," and based more on common sense.

However, one new rule seems contradictory to that goal, according to the Hockey Coaches Association.

Coaches will no longer be allowed to scout opposing teams in person, unless the opponent is part of a tournament or doubleheader at the same venue. Previously, coaches were allowed to scout in person, so long as they paid their own way and were not reimbursed expenses by the school.

The rationale of the NCAA Rules Working Group — which recommended a few dozen changes in all — is that coaches who live near other schools have an advantage over those that don't. And, they said, with video readily available of your opponents, it makes in-person scouting unnecessary. The Coaches Association, in conjunction with associations from other sports, argued that some coaches merely like to take in games as spectators, but the appeals were denied.

The change does seem to contradict the otherwise stated goals of simplifying the NCAA by-laws and eliminating unenforceable rules. But it does consolidate a rule that previously had a variety of loopholes.

Otherwise, the impact on college hockey was relatively minimal, but did contain some significant differences in how recruiting will be handled.

For one, there will no longer be a limit on the amount of assistant coaches that can be on the road recruiting at one time, which was known as the "baton rule."

Second, the amount of contacts with a recruit, and the type of contact — i.e. electronic communication of any kind — from the start of their junior year on, will now be unlimited.

In addition, schools will now be allowed to treat recruits like their own student-athlete once a National Letter of Intent is signed. Previously, there were restrictions on what kind of team events those recruits could participate in.

"This change would provide schools more flexibility when contacting committed recruits, which could lead to an increase in team retention rates and Academic Progress Rates because of the additional opportunities to strengthening the relationship between the coach and the student-athlete," the Rules Working Group said in a memo.

A potentially interesting side effect to that rule is that it also pertains to a signed offer of admission or financial aid. This would allow Ivy League schools, and others that don't use Letters of Intent, to also treat those recruits like their own student-athletes. The ramification may be that Ivy League players who signed an offer of admission or financial aid, will be "hands off" to other teams, they same way those who have signed NLIs currently are. Officials are still examining the ramifications.

The changes are set to go into effect August 1, 2013.

Overall, NCAA member presidents and leadership said it was motivated to revamp the rulebook to reflect more common sense approaches. Their hope is that, by removing unnecessary rules, it will make the rules that do exist easier to enforce, and with tougher consequences.

In their words, the NCAA is looking to shift the rules culture to a "fair competition model (that) acknowledges that natural advantages exist between campuses that cannot – and should not – be regulated. The changes are intended to better define what fairness means in terms of eligible student-athletes, scholarships, the length of the playing and recruiting seasons and the number of coaches."

Whether it has the intended effect of simplifying the rules and applying more common sense, remains to be seen.

A large portion of the recommended changes relaxed some of the rules on where funding for "actual and necessary expenses" for a team or individual could come from.

The Board delayed a final decision on another controversial rules change recommendation, regarding the creation of a uniform start date for recruiting in all sports.

There will now be a second phase that addresses financial aid and playing and practice season rules, along with recommending continued changes in areas from the first phase.

“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,” Wake Forest president Nathan Hatch, chair of the board, said.

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