USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where just the top five-star athletes are headed but rather a guide to the process and the pitfalls for student-athletes nationwide from Fred Bastie, the owner and founder of Playced.com. Playced.com is an industry leader in college recruiting. Their technology-based recruiting software identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and their recruiting advisers provide a recruiting experience that is trusted by college coaches and backed by a money-back guarantee.
A few months ago (April 25, 2018 to be exact) the NCAA approved a new set of rules governing the way Division 1 college coaches can communicate with athletes. The changes were made to allow prospective student-athletes to focus on their grades, take standardized tests, continue to develop athletically, research colleges and get the most out of their high school experience without the pressures of the college recruiting process.
Starting this upcoming school year, prospective Division 1 athletes will go through the recruiting process much the same way other students decide where to go to college. With school right around the corner, now is a good time to review the changes.
The new rules affect all Division 1 sports except for football, men’s and women’s basketball and men’s and women’s lacrosse. Those sports modified their recruiting rules last year. Division 1 softball actually took the rules one step further this year by adding a few extra limitations on coach communications. NCAA Division 2, Division 3 and NAIA schools are not impacted by the rule changes. Here’s a summary of the new rules and how they will affect your recruiting process.
September 1, your junior year
September 1 your junior year has now become a critical date for your recruiting journey. For student-athletes in sports other than football and basketball, the new recruiting rules essentially push back the dates that coaches can talk to athletes in person about recruiting. Here’s a detailed description of the new changes:
Camps: Under the new rules, high school athletes and college coaches are not allowed to have any “recruiting conversations” during camps before September 1 of the athlete’s junior year. Prior to this rule, there really weren’t any rules preventing coaches from talking about recruiting to underclassmen during camps.
A “recruiting conversation” is an in-person contact between a recruit and college coach, in which they discuss the athlete’s recruiting process, the coach’s interest in that athlete, or anything else related to the athlete’s recruiting process. Under the old rules, verbal offers were (occasionally) actually extended to top recruits during camps. That practice is now over for Division 1 recruits.
Official visits: Recruits can now take official visits starting September 1 of their junior year. Previously, official visits weren’t allowed until the athlete’s senior year of high school, so this change is actually moving official visits up in your recruiting calendar. As you may recall from one of our previous columns, an official visit is any visit to a college that is paid for by that university. Typically, you and/or your parents will have your transportation to and from the college paid for along with your hotel, meals, and some entertainment expenses. You can go on five official visits.
Unofficial visits: An unofficial visit is anytime you or your parents visit a college and your parents foot the bill. Under the new rules, Division 1 college athletic departments are not allowed to be involved in a recruit’s unofficial visits until after September 1 of their junior year. Prior to the rule change, unofficial visits were an easy way for underclassmen to visit a college campus, meet with the coach and perhaps get an indication of the coach’s level of interest in the recruit.
Now if an athlete wants to take an unofficial visit, they cannot schedule a meeting with the coach until September 1 of their junior year. An unofficial visit prior to that date should be treated like a campus visit for any other student. Keep in mind that if the recruit happens to bump into a coach on campus during the visit, they can’t have any recruiting conversations either.
Other forms of “recruiting conversations”: Athletes in sports other than lacrosse and softball can still talk with college coaches on the phone as a sophomore; however, the athlete must initiate the call and the coach has to answer. The coaches are not allowed to call an underclassman back. Division 1 softball and lacrosse athletes cannot talk at all to recruits prior to September 1 of their junior year, even if the athlete initiates the contact. There are similar rules for recruiting messages which include emails, direct messages or letters that discuss the college recruiting process.
How will the new rules impact your recruiting process?
The new rules will have an impact on your recruiting process if you are looking to play at the Division 1 level. The rules will make it essential that you complete all your research and recruiting groundwork during your freshman and sophomore years in high school. Additionally, keep in mind that recruiting messages may not be sent from a college coach through a high school or select coach to a recruit prior to September 1, of your junior year. That would also be a violation of this new rule.
On September 1 of your junior year, you will need to be ready to hit the ground running. Having your target schools identified and researched will put you a step ahead of your competition. It will make it easier to develop relationships with college coaches, pick the right camps to attend and schedule the appropriate official and unofficial visits.
With the exception of lacrosse and softball, all athletes looking to play in college should still be proactive in reaching out to college coaches. Athletes can always email, text or call college coaches. It’s a great way to get on their radar (as long as you don’t overdo it), just don’t expect a response.
Here’s the deal
September 1 of your junior year has become perhaps the most important date in your college recruiting process if you plan to play a Division 1 sport. Don’t wait until Labor Day weekend of your junior year to start the process!