FAQ: New Recruiting Legislation

Wednesday June 14th, 2017 8:00am

This column appears in the June Issue of Inside Lacrosse Magazine, the summer recruiting preview issue. Subscribe to the print edition here and subscribe to the digital edition here.

Earlier this year, the NCAA passed sweeping legislation proposed by the men’s and women’s lacrosse coaches associations that will greatly restrain the early recruiting process. But what exactly was passed, and what does it mean for players, coaches, parents and club organizations moving forward?

Inside Lacrosse talked with Michael Scerbo, Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance at Duquesne University, to help clarify the present and future of recruiting in lacrosse. Scerbo will be one of the hundreds of compliance personnel who’ll have to implement and enforce the new legislation. He’s also the former women’s lacrosse coach, serving as head coach at Duquesne for 11 years prior and as an assistant at Ohio State from 2002-2005.

What exact legislation did the NCAA pass in April?
On April 14, 2017, the NCAA Division I Council voted to adopt Proposal 2017-1 as non-controversial legislation with an immediate effective date.

This new legislation attempts to set Sept. 1 of a prospect’s junior year in high school as the first date of any form of recruiting contact. The legislation makes it impermissible for a prospect to do an unofficial visit with athletic department involvement prior to September 1 of a prospect’s junior year in high school, and it makes it impermissible for a coach to accept a phone call from a prospect or their parents/guardians prior to September 1 of junior year.

However, it also sets the date of Sept. 1 of a prospect’s junior year in high school as the first date for off-campus contacts with prospects, but to do so for juniors requires the contact to be at the prospect’s home or high school.

When does the legislation go into effect?
The new legislation is in effect NOW! In fact, the legislation took effect on the afternoon of April 14, 2017, and remains in effect. That means if a coach had an unofficial visit with a freshman set up and completed on the weekend of April 15-16, a violation could have occurred if the coach did not seek emergency relief of the new legislation. Please note though, per NCAA procedure, this new legislation is subject to the 60-day rescission period where member institutions can vote to overturn the decision. The rescission period will end on June 25, 2017.

Editor’s Note: The NCAA Division I Council voted on Friday, June 9, to approve a modification of wording to NCAA Bylaw that closes the camps and clinic “loophole” that was inadvertently created when NCAA 2017-1 was adopted in April. (A link to the modification of wording can be found here). Effective June 12, 2017, there is to be no recruiting contact between Division I lacrosse coaches prior to September 1 of the prospect’s junior year of high school. We’ve left the original response from Mr. Scerbo to provide context for the recent modification. Please consider that and keep in mind when reading the next two responses.

Can recruits talk to a Division I coach prior to Sept. 1 of their junior year?
In short, yes, they can talk to a coach, but only during that coach’s camp or clinic. Current NCAA legislation allows an exception to recruiting limitations that specifically provides for recruiting conversations between coaches and prospects at their own camp. In addition, coaches are still permitted to send a prospect questionnaires, camp brochures, NCAA educational information and non-athletics institutional publications. So, while the new legislation does limit the ability for coaches and prospects to interact prior to September 1 of the prospect’s junior year; it does not completely eliminate contacts.

Can recruits still attend Division I coaching camps or prospect days? Will prospect days still exist?
Yes, prospects can attend Division I Camps or Clinics. In my personal opinion, camps and clinics are going to explode as a way to raise money, evaluate the prospects and create the recruiting opportunities for coaches. Another factor that could influence this is the new legislation that went into effect on April 26 that allows a coach to conduct a campus tour during a camp or clinic. So now, based on the rules, everything that was done during an unofficial visit (e.g. freshmen days, sophomore days, prospect days, etc.) will be done during a camp or clinic.

What role will club coaches play moving forward?
The club coaches will continue to play the same role that they have in the past. They will offer advice to the prospects about the process and various schools. They will share their opinion with college coaches about the prospects talent and background. As has always been the case, club coaches cannot be used to circumvent NCAA recruiting rules. Specifically, they cannot be used to direct message a prospect that is not of legal age to receive recruiting communication. However, as we all know, this is a grey area that is extremely hard to regulate and monitor.

What happens to high school freshmen and sophomores who have already given a verbal commitment?
Freshmen and sophomores that have already committed are prohibited from calling their future coaches or meeting with anyone in the athletic department while visiting their future campus. They can send coaches electronic correspondence at their own discretion. The NCAA does not view a verbal commitment as a binding agreement and therefore does not offer exceptions to recruiting legislation for those that have verbally committed.

Can recruits still verbally commit prior to Sept. 1 of their junior year?
Yes, they can. There is no current legislation that prohibits a prospect from making a verbal commitment at any age.

Can and will coaches still evaluate players during the spring and summer prior to Sept. 1 of their junior high school year?
This is a question only a coach can answer, but being a former coach, I would say yes, it would still be part of my plans. If I was still in coaching, I would certainly take the time to watch and evaluate possible future recruits. The more evaluations you have on a prospect, the better it will be when you are ready to make a decision.

How will enforcement work? Will the NCAA openly look for violations or will they have to be reported? Are there any penalty guidelines currently available?
As with any NCAA rule, the primary mode of enforcement will be self-reporting, which makes education critical. As a compliance officer, education is always my main focus so that we can avoid violations rather than search for them. Another avenue available is investigative. The NCAA, member conferences and member institutions will investigate allegations from various sources to determine if violations did occur. Finally, each compliance office on campus will implement their own strategies of monitoring through phone records, visit documentation and simple observance. Everyone in the world of compliance was fearful of this rule passing because it is extremely difficult to monitor these areas, but we will try our best to maintain the integrity of the rules.
At this point, the NCAA has not given any guidance on penalties, but more than likely the initial penalties will be minor and could include short duration recruiting bans for specific prospects or possible letters of reprimand. Once we start seeing violations of the new rule, the penalty structure will become clearer.