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 and play at the college level. Joe 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.
NCSA: How new recruiting rules affect underclassmen
Every time the NCAA updates its recruiting rules, there can be a scramble from college coaches, potential recruits and their families to figure out how the new rules will affect them and the athletic recruiting process. After all, the recruiting process is a multi-year journey for most families and coaches. When the new NCAA Division I recruiting rules took effect on May 1, 2019, they essentially changed the timing for certain recruiting activities.
But what do the new rules mean for freshman and sophomores in high school? While it can be difficult to predict exactly how rule changes will impact each specific sport because of different timelines, we can at least make educated guesses about how things can play out.
What are the new rules?
The new NCAA rules apply to every Division I sport except football, men’s and women’s basketball, softball, baseball and men’s and women’s lacrosse. After moving up the start date for Division I visits last year, the NCAA passed new rules to help slow down the practice of early recruiting. With the new rules, the timing and nature of communication between college coaches and athletes become limited. Here are the major updates:
- No communication between an athlete and coach until June 15 after sophomore year.
- No verbal offers or commitments from student-athletes until June 15 after sophomore year.
- No official or unofficial visits until August 1 of junior year.
- No off-campus contact until August 1 of junior year.
In the past, coaches could talk with any athlete as long as the athlete initiated a phone call, allowing coaches to pick up the phone and listen. Now, that loophole is closed, and underclassmen can’t engage in any communication with a Division coach until June 15 after sophomore year. This includes any phone, text, email or social media communication between a parent or athlete and a coach.
This rule should allow underclassmen to focus more on their studies and training at an early age without the additional time commitment of reaching out to coaches. However, when that June 15 date rolls around, potential recruits should be prepared to contact college coaches and perhaps even share their highlight or skills video. So, it’ll be important to prep for that date ahead of time. Additionally, this rule may make attending camps and tournaments more important. College coaches attending these events may not be able to communicate with underclassmen, but they can still evaluate them and get them on their radar.
Official and unofficial visits
Since official visits (financed by the college) and unofficial visits (financed by the family) are not allowed until August 1 of junior year, underclassmen can’t take part. However, they still can go visit college campuses, as long as they do not have any recruiting-related conversations with the coach.
Because these visits are restricted until August 1 of junior year, but communication with coaches is allowed on June 15 after sophomore year, it is likely that a lot of the conversation between athletes and college coaches in the six weeks between the two dates will revolve around setting up college visits. That way, many recruits will be primed to go on college visits starting August 1 and may try to fit several in before their school is back in session for junior year.
Early offers and commitments
The NCAA didn’t specifically legislate any rules around early offers or commitments, but the new Division I recruiting rules prohibit any recruiting interaction until June 15 after sophomore year. That means there are no early offers and commitments allowed before that date. In the past, college coaches would make early offers to athletes during college visits or camps and tournaments.
Now that this is no longer allowed, top-tier athletes in sports that tend to recruit early will be faced with decisions to accept offers starting June 15 after sophomore year. It’s likely that many commitments will be made at this time. However, it will be interesting to see if a second spike in commitments occurs later in the year because recruits will want to first go on official and unofficial visits to colleges, which are not allowed until Aug. 1 of junior year.
Sure, NCAA rules can get confusing at times. But keeping track of them and understanding the recruiting timeline can help families and athletes find good opportunities and not have to rush into a decision. Make sure to keep up with them, as well as the NCSA College Recruiting Guide.