The pushback from athletic directors and coaches on loosened NCAA recruiting rules may lead to some of the proposals being modified or tabled before they go into effect.
Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity has been outspoken about his concern with some recruiting deregulation, in particular with rules that would expand the pool of people able to recruit beyond coaching staff members and allow an unlimited number of mailings to prospects.
The proposals passed by university presidents aimed to simplify a cumbersome NCAA rulebook.
“Everyone was in favor of some deregulation because, I mean, a 500-page rulebook. It’s hard to stay in the boundaries because you’re always looking at the rulebook,” Georgia basketball coach Mark Fox said. “I think the goal was to get rid of the rules that made no sense and evidently we’ve changed a lot more than that.”
McGarity said the rules were among items discussed last week at an NCAA football issues meeting he attended in Indianapolis. He said the rules were also talked about briefly at a Southeastern Conference athletic directors meeting in Birmingham.
“I think what we were wanting to do is see if we could build some consensus among the SEC,” McGarity said. “I think there was a sense of consistency in the meeting.”
The SEC did not issue any formal statement like the Big Ten, which said its football coaches and athletic directors opposed three of the 25 proposals adopted by the Division I board of directors Jan. 19. One of those proposals was to allow unlimited communication with recruits.
McGarity said he sees opposition growing to proposal 11-2, which allows anyone on staff at a school to contact recruits or evaluate prospect film, and proposal 13-5-A, which deals with printed recruiting materials. McGarity said those proposals, which the Big Ten also opposed, will directly impact schools’ finances.
McGarity said he feared the proposal would allow some schools to hire more staff members to handle recruiting, giving them another advantage over programs with fewer resources.
“It further separates the haves and have-nots because what are you going to do?” McGarity said. “There’s only 22 schools I’ve seen end up in the black. That’s a small percentage. The schools that are in the red are going to have pressure to be competitive. If it’s not overridden then every school is going to have to make their own decision on what they do. So you’re going to see some schools that have a financial issue at hand. How are they basically going to keep up competitively? You can’t act like one school Sunday through Friday and expect to be another school on Saturday.”
Georgia is not one of the schools in the red. It is projected to have $64.4 million in its general reserves at the end of this fiscal year.
Restrictions on media guides and printed material were put in place to control costs. But McGarity said he worries that “the age of the 400-page media guide may be back in play. Now you’re going to see school A that has a 400-page media guide, you’re going to want 401 pages.”
Fox said: “Just imagine producing a lifesize poster of every kid you’re recruiting and sending that out. The cost of doing some of those things is enormous.”
The proposals, which would take effect this summer, can be overridden with 75 votes during a 60-day period that runs through March 20.
All three of the controversial proposals seem to have momentum to reach that number, said John Infante, an NCAA compliance expert who writes “The Bylaw Blog.”
“Override votes, a lot of it comes in kind of late in the process,” Infante said. “The fact that all three of those already have double digit requests is, I think, a pretty good sign that they’re going to get to the 75 request needed to trigger the override process.”
If the proposals are overriden, the board of directors can then table the proposal, modify it and adopt it again (putting it through another 60-day period) or put it to a vote in which five-eighths of the schools can defeat it by supporting the override.
“There’s some discussions internally, ‘Could there be some adjustments made to the existing proposals that might provide a little bit more clarity?’” McGarity said.
Said Infante: “Even if it doesn’t get to 75 votes, they may decide, ‘We’re going to make a modification to these proposals anyway because we see enough opposition.’ If it looks like football doesn’t want to be involved with this or football wants more time or something different, maybe the modification is to remove football for now and then refer football back to the working group or to the leadership council, which is currently doing a broad look at the entire football recruiting model and have them come up with something over the next year that’s maybe more limited, that doesn’t involve all these noncoaching staff members calling.”
That would allow the deregulation proposals to go forward for all the other sports.
McGarity said there is “some sentiment” for putting a cap on the number of individuals on a staff, so “then you’ll have everybody on the same level playing field.”
Some fans would like Georgia to be more like Alabama — which has won three of the last four national titles — by allocating more finances back into the football program.
Alabama just hired former Crimson Tide and Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele as director of player personnel, where his “main charge will be to direct the recruiting efforts for the Crimson Tide,” according to the school’s website.
Beyond his nine on-field assistant coaches, Nick Saban’s staff also includes an associate athletic director/football, a football operations director, two directors of player development and two football analysts.
Georgia’s staff last year added Daryl Jones as director of on-campus recruiting and includes a director of player development (John Eason), director of football operations (Brad Hutcherson) and director of player welfare (Dave Van Halanger).
“It’s up to each school to determine what they need to do to be effective,” McGarity said. “I don’t think it’s a matter of people. Bottom-line is we do what we need to do. I don’t think there’s anything lacking with needs in our programs. And if you take Alabama out of the equation, we’re right there with other schools in terms of staffing — Texas, Oklahoma, LSU, Florida, South Carolina. … One size doesn’t fit all here. I think what people fail to realize is the money that football generates sponsors 21 sports here. If we’re going to be serious about all of our sports then we have to able to fully fund and treat every sport the same.”
Auburn recently hired Dell McGee of Carver High in Columbus, Jarvis Jones’ alma mater, to fill an off-the-field coaching position.
“Some people are adding staff even as we speak, but they can’t recruit,” McGarity said. “They can’t watch tape, they can’t analyze tape of prospective student-athletes, they can’t call them, they can’t coach on the field. I think people think a lot of people are being added ahead of this thing.”
Allowing unlimited phone calls and texts is welcome to McGarity. If that proposal stands, there would no longer be a need to track and report calls for secondary violations for inadvertent calls such as pocket dialing.
“Now I don’t know how good it is for the prospective student-athlete,” he said.
Or coaches for that matter.
“Let’s be very blunt about this: An assistant coach’s life — you think it’s busy now — they better have waterproof cell phones because they’re going to be using them in the shower,” ESPN recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill said. “You’re never going to be off of it. Where does that end?”
Maryland football coach Randy Edsall told reporters on Monday that he hates the new recruiting rules, The Washington Post reported.
“I know a lot of football coaches are trying to get with their ADs and presidents to overturn it, and get it overturned then develop sport-specific rules and regulations for everything,” he said. “I just think they had the intent of trying to do things, but they never got coaches involved with saying, ‘Hey, here’s some of the issues you’ll have.’
Said UGA president Michael Adams: “I think some deregulation of the most ridiculous rules was needed, but a lot of those rules were put there because of how competitive coaches are, and I don’t know if you ever have a perfectly level playing field. I worry about a student-athlete being bombarded in high school, particularly some who need to spend be spending time studying instead of responding to 100 emails a day. All of this is a balancing act and the pendulum can swing too far in one direction, which it probably had with some ridiculous rules. But it doesn’t need to swing all the way back to the other side or we will hurt student-athletes in the process.”