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.
The NCAA’s new Division I recruiting rules are officially in effect. These new rules apply to every DI sport except Football, W/M Basketball, Softball, Baseball and W/M Lacrosse. After moving up the start date for DI campus visits last year, the NCAA has adopted additional rules to curb the growth of early recruiting and normalize the college search for student-athletes. The biggest change is that these new rules limit the timing and nature of communication between college coaches and athletes. Here are the three updates to recruiting rules:
- Zero communication between a coach and athlete 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.
- No verbal offers or commitments from student-athletes until June 15 after sophomore year.
What does coach communication include?
Any phone, text, email or social media communication between a student-athlete or parent/guardian and a DI college coach. This includes private messages and incoming and outgoing phone calls. While the NCAA hasn’t established an official start date for verbal offers, June 15 after sophomore year is the start date for first recruiting interaction between athletes and coaches.
In the past, coaches could talk with any athlete as long as the athlete initiated the phone call. But with the new rule, this loophole is closed up. Until June 15 after your sophomore year of high school, you can’t engage in any communication with a DI coach.
Exceptions: Football, women’s basketball, baseball, lacrosse and softball don’t allow private message correspondence until September 1 of junior year. Lacrosse and softball don’t allow incoming or outgoing phone calls until September 1 of junior year, while football, baseball and men’s and women’s basketball still allow incoming calls from athletes to coaches at any time. Outgoing calls from coaches to athletes can start April 15 of junior year for football and September 1 of junior year for baseball and women’s basketball.
What do official and unofficial visits include?
Any visit to a college campus that is financed by the school (official visit) or any visit paid for by the family that includes a recruiting conversation with the coaching staff (unofficial visit). You can still check out a campus before August 1 of junior year, but you can’t talk about recruiting with the coach.
Exceptions: Baseball, basketball, football, lacrosse and softball. Both official and unofficial visits still begin September 1 of junior year for baseball, lacrosse and softball. For football, official visits start April 1 of junior year, while unofficial visits are allowed anytime. For women’s basketball, official visits start the Thursday after the Women’s Final Four (April 9, 2020), while unofficial visits are still allowed anytime.
What is off-campus contact?
According to the NCAA, off-campus contact is defined as any time a coach has face-to-face contact with student-athletes or parents off the college campus and says more than hello. Coaches can still come watch you play before August 1 of junior year, but they aren’t allowed to talk to you or your parents before or after the game.
Exceptions: Softball, lacrosse, baseball, basketball, football. Off-campus contact starts September 1 of junior year for softball and lacrosse, July 1 after junior year for baseball and football, March 1 of junior year for women’s basketball and opening day of junior year for men’s basketball.
Are early offers and commitments still allowed?
Nope. While the NCAA didn’t specifically legislate any rules around early offers or commitments, the new DI recruiting rules prohibit any recruiting interaction until June 15 after sophomore year. In the past, college coaches could make early offers to athletes on official/unofficial visits, through a high school/club coach or during a camp or tournament. But the new rules around coach communication, campus visits and off-campus contact fill in the loopholes to curb early commitments.
Exceptions: Currently, men’s ice hockey is the only NCAA sport with a legislated verbal offer rule (August 1 before junior year). Lacrosse and softball don’t allow any recruiting interaction until September 1 of junior year, while football, baseball and basketball still allow incoming calls from athletes anytime. In addition, football and women’s basketball still allow unofficial visits anytime.
What are the new rules for DI men’s ice hockey?
Men’s ice hockey adopted slightly different rules that recognize the unique opportunities for top players to go pro out of high school. The new dates also better align its recruiting process with the sport’s schedule. For men’s ice hockey, all coach communication, phone calls and unofficial visits can begin January 1 of sophomore year. Official visits, off-campus contact and verbal offers can begin August 1 before junior year.
Which sports are most impacted by the new rules?
Track and field, swimming, tennis, water polo and rowing. Since the majority of student-athletes who compete in these sports don’t get contacted by coaches until junior year anyway, the new rules could significantly speed up the recruiting timeline. In sports like soccer and volleyball—where early recruiting is more common—the impact is harder to predict and will likely be less overt.
How do the new DI rules impact the other division levels?
The new rules don’t directly change the recruiting timeline for DII, DIII, NAIA or Junior College schools. However, DI recruiting behavior can have a ripple effect. Coaches at the other levels often wait for DI coaches to fill up their recruiting classes before making offers to prospects. This allows them to get commitments from talented recruits who just missed out on the DI level for one reason or another. A ramped up DI recruiting timeline will speed everything up at the lower levels as well.
How do these rule changes impact your recruiting process?
These rules give you more time to get to know college coaches and check out a few schools before you commit. But keep in mind—the ramped-up timeline means coaches will be looking to make scholarship offers as soon as possible. Here are a few ways to get your ducks in a row ahead of time:
- 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 recruiting questions for the coach
- Discuss the possibility of receiving a scholarship offer with your parents