USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. Jason Smith is a former NCAA DIII athlete and college coach at all three division levels. Jason is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches, and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation, and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.
Junior year of high school is crunch time for college-bound student-athletes.
For most sports and division levels, a recruit’s junior year of high school is the time coaches can start proactively reaching out. The NCAA recruiting rules regarding high school juniors state that coaches can call, text, email, DM and contact athletes through most private, digital communication platforms. In other words, high school juniors who have been proactive in their recruiting should have a busy year ahead, responding to messages from college coaches.
What the NCAA recruiting rules mean for you
Many families put a lot of stock in the NCAA recruiting rules. While it’s certainly important for families understand what kinds of contact to expect from college coaches each year of high school, the NCAA recruiting rules were created for college coaches. They are designed to limit the amount of communication elite athletes receive from coaches, giving them some respite from all the calls, emails and letters. It is coaches who are tasked with complying to the rules, not athletes.
In other words, athletes’ role in the recruiting process isn’t dictated by the NCAA recruiting rules. Have you seen 8th graders and freshman in high school getting offers from coaches? This occurs because athletes can reach out to college coaches at any time, and they can also ask their high school or club coach to communicate with college coaches on their behalf. Athletes don’t need to wait around until coaches can start proactively reaching out to them. And they shouldn’t.
We recommend recruits email coaches of programs they are interested when they have some quality varsity and/or club video to share. Then, when the NCAA recruiting rules allow coaches to contact you, you will already be on their radar. Be sure to follow up each of your communications with a phone call, as coaches can take your call at any point. They just can’t call you back if they miss your call.
Insider Tip: If you get a coach’s voicemail, leave a time when you will call back to help ensure they pick up on your next call.
Below, I’ve broken out the NCAA recruiting rules for juniors by division level and sport, where necessary. Families can use these rules to understand what kind of communication and contact you should receive from coaches your junior year.
Division I NCAA recruiting rules for high school juniors
Generally speaking, DI coaches can send athletes recruiting questionnaires, camp brochures, and non-athletic institutional publications freshman and sophomore year. Most other contact begins either June 15 or September 1 of the athlete’s junior year, according to the NCAA recruiting rules.
Division I Football
- September 1 of junior year: Athletes can receive any form of private digital communication. This includes emails, recruiting materials, texts, and direct messages on social media. Unlike most sports, this does NOT include phone calls from coaches.
- April 1 through Sunday before the last Wednesday in June of junior year: Athletes can take one official visit as long as it is not taken in conjunction with their participation in the college’s camps or clinics.
- April 15-May 31 of junior year: During this time, coaches can call athletes one time. Additional calls can be made after September 1 of the athlete’s senior year. Athletes can receive one call per week starting September 1 of their senior year.
Division I Men’s Basketball
- June 15 prior to junior year: Coaches can call, email, text, direct message and correspond with athletes in any form of private communication. Calls from coaches to athletes are unlimited at this time except during dead and quiet periods.
- Start of classes junior year: Coaches can initiate off-campus contact. Except during the April recruiting period, coaches can only conduct off-campus contact at the recruit’s school or residence. Contact cannot occur the day of a competition or at a time during the day when the athlete’s classes are in session.
- January 1 of junior year: Recruits can begin official visits, with a maximum of five total official visits, with only one official visit per school. Meaning, you can have an official visit at up to five schools, with one official visit at each. Bear in mind, official visits cannot occur during the dead period, as the NCAA recruiting rules explain.
Division I Women’s Basketball
- September 1 of junior year: Coaches can send electronic communications to athletes, including texts, instant messages, emails, and recruiting materials. According to NCAA rules, coaches can call athletes an unlimited number of times.
- March 1 of junior year: NCAA recruiting rules allow coaches to conduct off-campus contact at the athlete’s school or residence.
- April of junior year starting the Thursday following the NCAA women’s basketball championship game: Recruits can begin taking up to five official visits (one per school), except during the dead periods.
Division I Men’s Ice Hockey
- June 15 before junior year: Coaches may begin initiating off-campus contact.
- September 1 junior year: Coaches can send all forms of private electronic correspondence, including text messages, direct messages, instant messages and emails. Athletes can also receive recruiting materials and calls from coaches after this date.
- July 1 after junior year: Coaches can conduct off-campus contact.
Division I Men’s/Women’s Swimming & Diving
- September 1 of junior year: The NCAA recruiting rules show only electronic mail and faxes are allowed to be sent to athletes until they provide written commitment to the NCAA school. At this date, athletes can also receive personalized recruiting materials.
- July 1 after junior year: Coaches can call recruits an unlimited amount of times.
Division I Men’s/Women’s Lacrosse
- September 1 of junior year: Coaches can send all forms of private, electronic correspondence, including text messages, instant messages, direct messages and emails, as well as recruiting materials. Coaches are also able to start calling athletes after this date. Unlike other sports, lacrosse athletes cannot call coaches before September 1 of their junior year. At this time, coaches can conduct off-campus visits at the athlete’s residence or school. Athletes cannot go on unofficial visits until this date.
All other Division I sports
- September 1 of junior year: Coaches can send athletes all forms of private electronic correspondence, including text messages, instant messages, direct messages and emails, as well as all recruiting materials. Coaches can also call athletes at this point.
Division II NCAA recruiting rules for high school juniors
The NCAA Recruiting Rules for Division II schools are slightly more relaxed than those for Division I, and the rules are the same across all sports:
- Printed recruiting materials: Starting July 15 before an athlete’s junior year, coaches can begin sending recruits printed recruiting materials.
- Telephone calls: Starting June 15 going into the athlete’s junior year, coaches can start calling athletes.
- Off-campus contact: Coaches can conduct off-campus communications with athletes and/or their parents starting June 15 before the athlete’s junior year.
- Official visits: Athletes may start taking official visits starting June 15 going into their junior year.
Division III NCAA recruiting rules for high school juniors
DIII schools have the most relaxed NCAA recruiting rules of all the division levels. Similar to NCAA DII, they are the same for all sports:
- Recruiting materials: Athletes can receive recruiting materials at any time.
- Telephone calls: There is no limit on when college coaches can call athletes.
- Off-campus contact: After the athlete’s sophomore year, college coaches may begin to conduct off-campus communications.
- Official visits: Athletes can begin taking official visits after January 1 of their junior year.
To ensure that coaches will reach out to you at this crucial time in your recruiting, you need to do the groundwork as early as your freshman and sophomore years of high school. If you’re a high school junior who isn’t hearing from college coaches yet, it might be time to rethink your strategy. Are your emails too generic? Maybe you aren’t following up enough. Have you been filling out recruiting questionnaires and updating your highlight video with new footage regularly? There are plenty of ways to step up your recruiting and start getting noticed by college coaches.