Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops thought the NCAA's decision to deregulate many of its college football recruiting rules was made in haste.
“Seemed like they were just ready to, in other words, ‘Let's take it out of the NCAA and our compliance hands, and let's have no regulation,'” Stoops said. “Well, I don't think that's the right thing to do. I don't think it's been totally broke, so let's not totally change it.”
Stoops was among several influential people nationally to speak out against the January proposals that would have allowed unlimited contact between coaches and recruits. Their voices were heard loud and clear; earlier this month, the NCAA Division I board of directors suspended the loosened rules, some of which were set to take effect July 1.
The proposals would have lifted restrictions on phone calls, mail and text messages, which were banned for college football recruiting in 2007. There would've also been no dead period, creating a yearlong, never-ending recruiting “circus,” as Stoops called it in February.
When the NCAA passed its January proposals — which also included the elimination of rules stating only head coaches and assistant coaches can recruit — the intent was to simplify the rules and focus more attention on bigger issues.
But the changes were quickly met with widespread resistance from college coaches, high school coaches and administrators. The board was required to review its proposals after it received 75 override requests from the NCAA membership.
“We are supportive of moving as aggressively as possible while still studying the issues with due diligence,” Board chair and Wake Forest President Nathan Hatch said in a statement announcing the rule suspensions. “It's important to make sure all the pieces of the recruiting model work together to make the most effective change in the culture.”
Back before text messaging was banned, Guthrie coach Rafe Watkins watched in horror as superstar Kye Staley — now an Oklahoma State senior fullback — was bombarded with calls and messages from college coaches. Watkins said that one month, Staley's cellphone bill eclipsed $300.
This year, Guthrie has another talented senior expected to receive serious Division I attention. Kai Callins doesn't have any offers yet because of a torn ACL last fall, but his stock could rise when games begin.
“I think there should be a limit,” Callins said. “Just as a student-athlete, it's tough enough as it is with school, work, practice and if you're in any clubs or anything like that.
“You want to take those calls so you don't look bad, but sometimes it can be too much.”
Opinions vary on the issue, though. Southmoore senior Jaelon Walker said he thinks coaches should be allowed unlimited contact.
“They're going to give you a $100,000 offer,” Walker said. “If they're going to spend that kind of money on a student, they should be able to contact him as much as they want. I'm fine with that trade off.”
What they're saying about the NCAA's recruiting proposals
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops: “I think they need to do a better job of communicating with players. If a player says he talked to so-and-so at whatever time of year, whether you can trace it or not, however he called him, he called me, I talked to him, well, that's a violation. Have it severe enough to where they don't want to do it. I don't think we do a good enough job of that.”
Alabama coach Nick Saban, speaking in March to the Birmingham Mountain Touchdown Club: “I'm kind of happy with the system we have now. To use the idea that, ‘We can't monitor it, so why don't we just make it legal?' I don't buy into that at all. It's like saying, ‘People are driving too fast. We can't enforce the speed limit, so let's just take the signs down and let everyone go as fast as they want.'”
NCAA President Mark Emmert, in a statement after the rules were suspended: “The intent is to develop a model that considers how the changes work together. The Board stated its intent to move forward with rules reform aggressively but also with due diligence. The reform effort, by any measure, has been a success and I'm confident the membership will find the right solution for some coach's concerns with this as well.”
Duke coach David Cutcliffe, speaking at last week's ACC spring meetings: “We far more favor regulation than total deregulation. We have concerns with deregulation, that it turns into a free-for-all. We are not in favor of earlier communications with prospects. We are not in favor of unlimited calling or text messaging. We feel that's a distraction to the student-athlete, particularly juniors or even seniors for that matter.”