The Rules Working Group released a recommendation on Friday in which they ask the Division 1 Board of Directors to adopt new rules regarding recruiting. As this has been a huge issue recently in the lacrosse world, it brings up yet another great opportunity for discussion and dialogue surrounding a contentious issue. I’d like to hear any thoughts in the comment section!
To simplify what is being recommended, I’ll focus on the three Rs of the issue: Recruiting, Reality and (de)Regulation.
The RWG is going to be making further recommendations in the future. These will focus on financial aid, and practice and playing season rules. But for now, the main focus in on recruiting. Jim Barker, the President of Clemson, was quoted as saying:
We on the working group are committed to changing the regulatory culture in meaningful ways. (We hope the membership will) remain actively involved, open-minded and engaged throughout this process. A successful culture change will require a collaborative effort and a sense of shared responsibility. Our goal is smarter rules and tougher enforcement.
People across the spectrum seem to agree that the recruiting system is not functioning as well as it could be. Some of the rules are antiquated or unduly onerous, and others are rarely and sporadically enforced. The system is rife with grey areas, and exemptions and different sports with different rules does nothing to normalize the process or expectations. “Smarter rules and tougher enforcement” sounds like a good direction to head.
The Reality is that the NCAA simply can not keep up with things the way they are right now. Arguments can be made that it is impossible, and they can be made that the NCAA is inept at equitable enforcement. All that is certain is that the system is broken.
I have often pointed to football and basketball as the “big business” sports of the NCAA, and perhaps unfairly, I have blamed these two sports for the crazy recruiting culture. While those two generate a lot of income and publicity, there are many other sports where money plays a huge role. Just look at the six figure contracts of some of the D1 lacrosse coaches out there and you start to see how money can play a part everywhere.
This isn’t a knock on those guys in any way, as the vast majority of D1 coaches are working incredibly hard and putting in long hours, year-round, but it does show how there is an immense pressure to win, keep your job, and to land the next big recruit. Add in the fact that D1 coaches are a competitive bunch by nature, and you start to see how recruiting can get crazy, even in a smaller sport like lacrosse.
The Rules Working Group’s answer to the above reality is to deregulate, and streamline, the process. For example, there would now be a set date, for all sports, where recruiting contact (in all forms) can begin. The RWG proposed that date to be set at July 1 after the student’s sophomore year. For basketball, this would actually move the date back two weeks from June 15th, but for others it would move forward. Another similar deregulation recommendation is that restrictions should be lifted on methods and modes of communication between coaches and recruits.
In an AP story, Indiana’s AD, Fred Glass was quoted as saying:
We have to keep track of all that now. If don’t have to do that, it will eliminate a substantial part of it… I’ve always thought they should let that go anyways and let the marketplace decide.
Personally, I do not share Mr. Glass’ sentiments, as I believe it is the NCAA’s responsibility to keep college athletics amateur in nature, and with a focus on academics, but I am also aware that we live in a capitalist country, that college sports are big business, and that deregulation of recruiting has been on its way for a long time now.
The NCAA serves as a minor league for the NBA and NFL, and those two sports are the financial drivers of the association. Huge dollars are on the line for schools, coaches, and players and the continued existence of smaller sports often counts on these large sports thriving. Decisions will be made with those larger drivers in mind.
No matter how much I don’t like it, the reality of the situation really is that simple. Of course that doesn’t mean every sport needs to follow in line, and right now we are experiencing a potentially huge inflection point for the sport of lacrosse, and which direction our sport will head.
Will we go the route of football and basketball, where Blue Chip student-athletes are given gift packs/money to attend camps and events, and where coaches are texting players 20 times a day?
Or will we go the route of volleyball, where recruiting is basically managed through their national body (think USLacrosse, but more involved) and regional tournaments?
Perhaps Lacrosse will create a third option, and go our own way. If my recent conversation with Trevor Tierney is any indication, the D1 college coaches might already have something in the works. And if they do? Then all this talk of deregulation really doesn’t mean all that much for the sport of lacrosse, because the community will have taken a proactive step themselves.
I’m truly hoping it works out that way.