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May 22, 2013
History has taught us that what functions well in one sport might not necessarily do the same in another.
Exhibit A: the level of recruiting contact allowed in basketball compared to football.
After successfully loosening the guidelines surrounding communications between basketball coaches and prospects a year ago, the NCAA's Division I Board of Directors sought to implement nearly identical deregulatory rules in football, passing a series of proposals in January that would have virtually eliminated most rules governing contact with recruits.
Text messaging, banned in football recruiting since 2007, would become legal again, along with unlimited phone calls, e-mails and private messaging on Facebook and Twitter.
Stated another way, college coaches could call, text and communicate privately by any methods available without restrictions. No more one call per week, no more dead periods. Essentially, it would be recruiting 24/7/365.
The reaction, however, from football coaches throughout the country was far different than a year ago when basketball coaches rejoiced about their newfangled freedom in communicating with prospects.
Almost universally, the football coaches condemned the new rules as inviting chaos, unruliness and disorder into the recruiting process.
The outcry was so pervasive - more than the minimum 75 schools objected - the NCAA backed down earlier this month when the Division I Board of Directors adopted a resolution suspending enactment of the new contact rules until their impact could be further studied.
Widespread hostility from college and high school coaches alike convinced the Board of Directors to take another look and study the issues further before taking action.
Oregon State head coach Mike Riley is glad they did, contending 'guidelines' are necessary to protect college coaches, high school coaches, and prospects.
"I was not for deregulation," Riley said recently in a teleconference. "I know they're trying to get rid of some pages in the rule book, which is unruly at best. But I think we need some guidelines to protect what we do and also protect high school coaches and players and their families. They say (deregulation) has somewhat worked for basketball, just opening it up.
"But with the number of kids that are recruited in college football, the number of coaches that are on the road and the size of staffs back in the office, there are a bunch of issues that surround deregulation. There are a whole bunch of residual things that would occur if deregulation took place like it was proposed initially."
Like many coaches, Riley fears the proposed rules, had they been adopted starting this year, would have given the green light to many of the top revenue-producing football programs in the country to establish NFL-style player personnel departments.
Riley is not alone in believing that the elimination of two rules allowing only full-time coaches to serve as recruiting coordinators and lifting limitations on the number of coaches who can recruit off campus at one time would have invited chaos.
"The formation of personnel groups within each college staff (was a potential problem), staffs would have grown and some people would have been hired just to text message all day, every day," Riley said. "If phone calls were unlimited, kids would have been bombarded."
Opponents of deregulation fear it would unleash an "arms race" in recruiting. When it first prosed the rules, the NCAA viewed the elimination of restrictions on phone and messaging as a 'common-sense approach' given modern technology.
Most football coaches disagreed. How divisive has the issue of deregulation been? Big Ten coaches overwhelmingly criticized the new rules when they were announced in January even though the Big Ten associate commissioner for compliance was a member of the Rules Working Group that initially developed the relaxed standards.
If a recruit doesn't want to answer a phone call or text, they can simply ignore it, the NCAA insisted. But what happens when dozens of coaches are all trying to contact you throughout the day? A never-ending ringtone.
"You have nine full-time coaches at colleges working. Sometimes, the total number of offers from one school can be upwards of 100 guys," Riley said. "Multiple that by the text messages, phone calls and visits to schools. If you were allowed contact with juniors, it would become where you would need another staff just to do that or your own team would suffer from a coaching and mentoring standpoint."
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