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Those who follow recruiting closely (i.e., all of us) may remember a proposed change to the NCAA rules that would allow coaches more contact with high school players. Instead of limiting calls to one a month at bottom, or a maximum of two per week, coaches will be allowed to call a player as often as they would like. This rule change, for better or worse, will go into effect on June 15th.
There’s little question that the change will benefit coaches who are trying to sell their programs to elite (or even just really good) high school talents. Particularly, mid- and high mid-major schools will be able to use the expanded parameters to make absolutely sure that young players across the country have a good idea of exactly what their school has to offer. Every high school kid knows the traditions at UK, UNC, or UCLA, but players may not be as familiar with the auras of Butler, Xavier, or Temple. Maybe the increased amount of phone-time will let those coaches sell their programs a little better. Or maybe it won’t; we can’t know for sure until we see the results of the change.
The concern with this change, though, is the impact it could have on the students. Suddenly, their protective barrier has absolutely evaporated, and they find themselves susceptible to college coaches’ every whim. Maybe they don’t want to hear from new South Carolina coach Frank Martin, but by golly, they’re still going to get those calls. Is that fair? Well, if we’re being fair, high school players probably enjoy getting those calls. It’s pretty cool that big time college coaches are calling your phone, and kids these days have their iPhones hotglued to the sides of their faces anyways, so maybe this won’t be a big deal. But the lack of that buffer zone could prove to be contentious.
One good thing may fall through the cracks: because coaches can contact players directly, they won’t have to go through AAU coaches in attempts to get players’ attentions. Previously, because calls from coaches were limited, but calls to coaches were not, college HCs would get a hold of a kid’s high school or AAU coach and ask to forward a message, or call them back. This gave those AAU coaches an important role as “gatekeeper” to the players, which they could possibly use to influence, even exploit, both the college coaches and the young players. Now, the coaches can eliminate the middle man, and go right to the player himself. Will this completely eliminate the influence that AAU coaches have over the recruiting process? Probably not. But it is a step in the right direction.
But apart from the impact on other schools, and the players themselves, how, if at all, will the change affect Coach Cal? My guess is: not much. Cal has already expressed that he is slow to offer scholarships, believing instead that they should be “rewards” for players, and not simply an indication of interest. If that mentality carries over to phonecalls, it’s possible that Cal won’t pick up his phone much more often after the rule change than before it. After all, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Calling a kid all the time won’t make that kid want to go to your school any more. In fact, constant attention may turn him off from your program; who wants to play for a coach that seems desperate?
And Coach Cal is anything but desperate. He has mastered the recruiting game in a way that few before him have, and one small rule change is unlikely to change that. The only thing that will change is the number of write-ups the student-athletes will get for not having their phones on silent in class. Because they will be ringing.
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Bill Keightley Report : Never to be forgotten.
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