NCAA may consider changing rules that bar coaches from text messaging recruits

Unintentional text messages by coaches at Georgia and other schools have caused them to self-report NCAA recruiting violations.

Georgia’s Mark Richt looks at his cell phone while talking to fans on National Signing Day before sharing the message that a key prospect signed with his team.
David Manning

 

That might not be necessary in the future.

The NCAA is considering a proposal that would again permit coaches to send text messages to recruits or their parents at permitted time periods.

“I think they’ve got to go in and re-look at some of the legislation,” Georgia football recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner said. “Now everybody has these unlimited data packages and that’s the way kids communicate. I think the NCAA has to recognize it. You’ve got to be able to change with whatever is going on in society.”

Georgia has reported at least 10 text message secondary violations in the last three years across all of its sports.

Football coach Mark Richt and assistant men’s basketball coach Kwanza Johnson were involved in violations this year for inadvertently sending electronic transmissions.

A proposal from the Division I Recruiting and Athletics Personnel Issues Cabinet would allow all forms of electronic correspondence, including email and texts, to be sent to recruits or their parents beginning when phone contact is allowed in that sport, according to the NCAA News. It must be sent directly to the prospect and be private between the sender and recipient.

The cabinet heard concerns that the current ban was “outdated and lagging behind prospects’ use of technology.”

The Southeastern Conference in its spring meeting supported lifting the ban, but expressed a desire not to inundate prospects with texts.

Sending text messages to recruits or their families is currently against NCAA rules under a four-year-old ban.

Texas Tech was placed on two years probation for major infractions after coaches sent nearly 1,000 text messages to football, softball and golf prospects.

Rougly one-third of Alabama’s secondary violations in the last two years involved impermissible text messages, according to The Birmingham News. At Missouri, according to the Columbia Tribune, 32 of the schools’ 77 violations in 2009 and 2010 involved either text-messaging or the Internet.

Georgia reported violations for Richt sending two text messages from his Blackberry to the father of rising senior Harris County defensive end Jordan Jenkins on May 26, according to information obtained in an open records request.

Richt phoned Ron Jenkins that evening. Later that night, Ron Jenkins texted Richt asking for camp dates. Richt did not have the number listed as a contact, so it appeared to be from an unknown number according to Georgia’s report.

“Coach Richt intended to text his (then) recruiting assistant, Charles Cantor, to identify the number,” athletic director Greg McGarity wrote in a letter to SEC commissioner Mike Slive. “Coach Richt failed to send the text to Mr. Cantor, but instead replied to the original text from Mr. Jenkins. Immediately, Coach Richt realized the error and self-reported the violation to (compliance director) Eric Baumgartner.

“Mr. Baumgatner later texted Coach Richt askng if Mr. Jenkins had replied to his impermissible text. Coach Richt attempted to forward Mr. Jenkins’ response to Mr. Baumgartner, but instead replied again to Mr. Jenkins. Coach Richt then self-reported the additional text to Mr. Baumgartner and eventually emailed Mr. Jenkins the camp dates.”

Georgia said the texts were inadvertent and no recruiting advantage was gained and asked for relief from a prescribed two-week ban from calling or providing recruiting materials.

The incident was previously reported elsewhere and made Sports Illustrated’s “Signs of the Apocalypse” in its June 27th issue.

Johnson attempted to send an email from his cell phone to Thomasville recruit Robert Carter on April 25, but instead sent a text message. Johnson reported the violation when he realized it occurred.

UGA barred the men’s program from phoning or providing recruiting materials to Carter for 30 days and Johnson was barred from phoning any recruits for two weeks. The SEC accepted those penalties.

Former football assistant coaches Warren Belin and Stacy Searels were among coaches with text violations in the past.

“That’s manpower hours in compliance that could be spent somewhere else versus inadvertent texts,” Garner said last week. “Sometimes you have to catch yourself. For example, I got a text yesterday from a parent of a big-time recruit asking a certain question. You’re about to hit reply and know that you can’t do that, so you have to turn around and send her an email to answer a question.”

Garner thinks there is enough momentum for the proposed legislation to pass nationally.

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