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January 25, 2013

New NCAA rules will alter recruiting tactics

Buried under the avalanche spawned by the NCAA's well-publicized mis-steps in the long-running investigation into the Miami athletics program are a series of massive reforms approved last week relating to recruiting.

South Carolina quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus is all too familiar with the lack of common sense in some of the NCAA's silly rules pertaining to communications with prospects.

For example, a coach was prohibited from text messaging a recruit, but e-mailing and direct messaging on Twitter was allowed. So, a coach could simply forward an e-mail or Tweet to a prospect's phone number or Twitter address without fear of running astray of NCAA rules.

What's the difference? None. Except one mode of communication (text message) constituted a secondary rules violation and the others (e-mail, Tweets) were entirely permissible.

"The texting was around five years ago, but they got rid of it because somebody complained (it was occurring) during school hours," Mangus said earlier this week on the "Inside the Roost" program on 107.5 The Game. "Meanwhile, you can Tweet them, direct-message them, all that kind of stuff. And guys have been doing that during school hours, too.

"These new rules will clean it up. If you're in the compliance area, you're excited about it because it's a lot less paperwork and a lot less this and that."

The NCAA reform measures enacted last weekend eliminate the prohibition on text messaging and sanctioned unlimited communications on social media, opening the door to NFL-style personnel departments and hopefully changing the regulatory culture in Division I athletics.

The new rules are effective on Aug. 1.

Opening up the avenues of communications between coaches and prospects means the old rules limiting the number of calls per week or establishing "dead periods" are gone. Will some top prospects in the Rivals 250 be bombarded with never-ending text messages, direct messages on Twitter, phone calls and Facebook posts? Absolutely.

"It will get interesting," Mangus said. "As coaches, we'll see how it goes through time."

What does the new rule affecting communications mean? Assistant coaches like Mangus could see their lives eaten up by around-the-clock recruiting. They know if they don't do it, somebody else will. Family time? Relic.

"It will be a little more work for the assistant coaches," Mangus said. "For the last few years, we've been e-mailing to their phones versus texting. What's the difference? One's a violation, one's not. It was ridiculous. Hopefully, that will clean it up a little bit."

Besides de-regulating communications between coaches and prospects, FBS football programs have been given clearance to hire a recruiting coordinator who isn't a head coach or full-time assistant coach, a revolutionary approach that could produce NFL-style personnel departments within the football offices of most SEC programs.

However, while non-coaching staff will be allowed to make telephone calls or send e-mail and text messages to recruits, they won't be able to watch a recruit play in-person or conduct home visits. But they can do just about everything else.

According to the NCAA, the changes are "intended to ease administrative burden and allow coaches to develop a deeper relationship with recruits before commitments are made."

Some people fear the package of new rules indulge big-budget BCS schools like those in the SEC. However, the NCAA acknowledged the decades-long quest to maintain a "level playing field" between large and small schools is no longer feasible since the gap between the haves and the have-nots has grown wider in facilities and resources.

Instead, the organization, recognizing the integral roles of geography and fan passion, will focus on "a commitment to fair competition" rather than concerning itself with how many toys (resources) a certain BCS school has at its disposal to lure the most talented recruits.

Additional new rules going into effect allow schools to provide "reasonable entertainment in conjunction with competition or practice." This language has been interpreted to mean athletes can be provided bagels AND cream cheese during recruiting visits. Previously, schools couldn't offer both. Laughable, but that was the rule.

Finally, a new rule allowing prospects to receive "$300 more than actual and necessary expenses" as long as they don't come from an agent or booster will save a ton of paperwork and compliance headaches for things that used to be considered secondary (or minor) violations.

Compliance directors rejoice. Assistant coaches? Not so much.

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