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. Joe Leccesi is a former college athlete and coach at the NAIA level, where he earned an NAIA National Championship. Joe 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.
The NCAA continues to explore ways to normalize the college search for student-athletes. In October, the Division I Council introduced a proposal to move up the recruiting timeline for every sport except football and men’s and women’s basketball. If adopted, the new rules would allow communication with college coaches—either to or from a coach—to start June 15 before an athlete’s junior year of high school. In addition, the proposal would allow official campus visits to begin August 1 before junior year.
The Division I Council also proposed a tweak to men’s ice hockey recruiting rules. If adopted, unofficial campus visits and all forms of communication to or from a college ice hockey coach would be permitted beginning January 1 of a student-athlete’s sophomore year. Both proposals—the result of a two-year study on early recruiting by the Student-Athlete Experience Committee—will be put to a vote by the Division I Council on April 19. If adopted, both proposals would be effective immediately.
Why is the NCAA proposing changes to its recruiting rules?
These recruiting rule proposals come on the heels of the recent rule change to official visits. For every sport except football and basketball, official visits—during which the college covers some or all expenses—can now begin September 1 of a student-athlete’s junior year in high school. In the past, student-athletes had to wait until the first day of senior year classes to check out college campuses on an official basis and meet with coaches. However, the NCAA moved up the date to give student-athletes a little more breathing room to find the right school.
How would earlier coach communication impact the recruiting timeline?
If the recruiting rule proposals are adopted, athletes will enjoy even more time with opportunities to communicate with coaches earlier on in the recruiting process. For NCAA D1 sports except men’s basketball and men’s ice hockey, coaches have to wait until September 1 of a recruit’s junior year to proactively communicate via email, phone call, text or direct messages on social media. While student-athletes can reach out to coaches at any time, coaches are not allowed to make first contact or respond. The only way for recruits to really build a relationship is by scheduling a phone call through a third party.
If the proposal to coach communication passes, college coaches would have an extra two and a half months to get to know recruits on a personal level. This rule would give coaches more time to make sure a student-athlete is the right fit for their program. Plus, by permitting coach communication ahead of official visits on the recruiting timeline, the NCAA is aiming to curb the last-second scramble. By allowing all forms of communication beginning June 15, coaches should have more time to send invites, schedule visits and build strong relationships with prospective student-athletes.
How would earlier official visits impact the recruiting timeline?
The NCAA’s September 1 rule was put in place to better align the student-athlete’s college search with that of the general student population. However, the Division I Council is now proposing to move up the rule by a month to give athletes even more time to go on official visits and meet with college coaches in person. Why? So, recruits can attend a home game. Since the D1 season for football, soccer, volleyball and other fall sports teams often begins before September 1, moving the date for official visits to August 1 before junior year gives visiting student-athletes more chances to attend a game. Even if your sport is in the winter or spring, taking in a college’s home football game can be a great way to experience campus life.
How would proposed rule changes impact men’s ice hockey recruiting?
If the proposal to move up official visits is passed by the NCAA, men’s ice hockey recruits could begin taking these visits as early as August 1 before junior year. In addition, the Division I Council collaborated with the American Hockey Coaches Association to introduce a proposal that would allow coach communication and unofficial visits to begin January 1 of a student-athlete’s sophomore year of high school. Since professional opportunities begin early for talented men’s ice hockey players, this rule would give student-athletes more time to build relationships with college coaches and make an informed decision on their opportunities to compete in college or for a professional team.
How would these rule changes affect my recruiting process?
If these proposals are adopted, earlier coach communication and earlier official visits would give you more time to get to know college coaches and check out a few schools before you commit. But keep in mind that coaches will be looking to identify top recruits and make scholarship offers as soon as possible. Getting an official visit invite means you’re at the top of a coach’s recruiting list—but it doesn’t mean you’ve locked down a spot. So, before you set foot on campus, make sure you’ve done the following:
- Take the ACT/SAT early
- Create an NCAA Eligibility Center Account–You need this certificate before you take an official visit to a D1 or D2 school
- Compile a list of questions for the coach
Discuss the possibility of receiving a scholarship offer with your parents—make sure everyone is on the same page!