Recruiting Tip: Make sure you know the rules

Recruiting Tip: Make sure you know the rules

Recruiting Column

Recruiting Tip: Make sure you know the rules


The USA TODAY High School Sports Recruiting Tips are provided by our recruiting partner,

Knowing and understanding the recruiting rules puts you a step ahead of the competition. Here are some terms, rules, and facts that should help you navigate the recruiting process.


The rules with respect to college visits are very specific and if something is not handled correctly, the college and you could suffer the consequences. An official visit is any visit to a college that is paid for by that university. You and/or your parents will have your transportation to and from the college paid for. Also paid for by the college will be your hotel, meals, and entertainment expenses. Generally, you will receive three free tickets to that college’s home game the weekend you are in town. Each official visit can last up to 48 hours.


An unofficial visit is anytime you or your parents visit a college and your parents foot the bill. You can take as many unofficial visits as you like. Unofficial visits to colleges in which you have interest are a great idea and should start as early as the end of your sophomore year. You might even be able to alert the college coach that you will be on campus and if the weekend is not during a dead period (see definition below) then perhaps a short meeting might be possible. 


Contact is classified as an in-person encounter between a college coach and the student athlete where more than a greeting occurs. Anything beyond a “hello” is considered a contact and college coaches are bound by NCAA rules that prohibit them from contacting recruits and their families during certain times. 


Evaluations are opportunities for college coaches to assess the abilities of a recruit. Evaluations typically occur off-campus, the evaluation timetables are sport specific and recruiting calendars for your sport of interest can be found in the NCAA Manual and are available on the NCAA website. The evaluation offers the coach an opportunity to see a recruit early and it creates interest in their program.


Recruiting periods define the rules for coaches contacting potential recruits. Remember, recruits and their parents can contact coaches at any time, with very few exceptions. The timetable for each recruiting period is sport specific, but the definitions below remain constant.

  • Contact Period– During a contact period college coaches can contact you or your parents in any manner. This period means coaches can watch you compete anywhere, and the coach can send you emails or text messages, make telephone calls and make in-home visits.
  • Dead Period – During a dead period, college coaches cannot make in-person contact with you or your parents. This prevents the coach from making any evaluations of you whatsoever, but they can write, use social media, text and make telephone calls to you or your parents.
  • Quiet Period- During this time a college coach cannot watch you compete at any location. They can make in-person contact with you or your parents if it occurs on the coach’s campus. The coach can also make telephone calls, and you can make visits to college campuses during this time.
  • Evaluation Period –During an evaluation period it is permissible for the college coach to evaluate your playing abilities at your high school or any other place where you are competing. During this period the coach cannot have off campus in-person contact with you or your parents. The coach can still make telephone calls to you and you can make campus visits during this period. 


To be eligible to compete in NCAA sports during your first year, you must meet academic requirements for your core courses, grade-point average (GPA) and test scores. The rules can be a little complicated and they vary a little between Division I and Division II, but here are the highlights:

  • You must successfully complete all required NCAA core courses,
  • You must have achieved the minimum Core Course GPA for your division,
  • You must have a minimum qualifying score on the ACT or SAT, and
  • You must graduate from high school and provide your completed high school transcripts. 


The NCAA and NAIA Eligibility Centers are organizations that confirm your academic eligibility and amateur status. This is achieved through the evaluation of your high school academic records. You should begin this process soon after junior year grades are in. This will provide coaches with preliminary “reads” on eligibility. Final eligibility will be determined after your senior year grades are available.


An NLI is a binding agreement between a college and a student-athlete. The student-athlete agrees to attend the school for one year and the school agrees to provide financial aid for one year.  Signing an NLI ends the recruiting process since other colleges are prohibited from contacting a student-athlete who has already signed an NLI.  If a student-athlete signs an NLI with one school, but opts to attend a different school, he or she will lose one full year of eligibility.


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