The NCAA will vote on a proposal to end early recruiting in softball and most other sports. Adopting the new rules would mean an end to the verbal commitment of seventh, eighth and ninth graders. It’s a subject many college coaches have publicly and privately criticized but felt helpless to change because of intense competition.
NCAA’s Division 1 Council submitted three separate proposed legislation in early October. Here’s a quick summary of the rules and the reason for the changes:
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- Coaches would be prohibited from recruiting conversations with a prospect at a camp or clinic until Sept. 1 of their sophomore year (Proposal 2017-113). — Rationale: Eliminates early recruiting opportunities
- Colleges would be prohibited from providing game tickets to prospects before Sept. 1 of their sophomore year . (Proposal 2017-112) — Rationale: Slows the recruiting process and allows students to focus on academic and athletic success
- Official visits would move up to Sept. 1 of the prospect’s junior year, instead of opening day of the senior year. This change would align with the first day for recruiting phone calls and written correspondence. (Proposal 2017-111) —Rationale: Better aligns the decision-timeline of for student-athletes and college decision-making.
The proposed rules would put an end to the controversy of colleges verbally committing seventh, eighth and ninth graders, the most recent being the Florida Gators verbally committing 7th grader Keegan Rothrock from Whiteland Indiana, who was reported to throw a screwball at 66 mph, according to FloSoftball. While many parents might be enthusiastic about early commitments of their daughters, many coaches have strong reservations.
Firecrackers Coach Sean Brashear likes the rule changes and feels that softball players committing at 7th and 8th grade is too young. “This would allow for more player development as teams would be able to practice more and with the recruiting change more competitive game play as teams would not be in Showcase mode so early,” he said.
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Brashear said college coaches were under intense pressure, many of them not wanting to recruit extremely young players but forced to commit to stay competitive. He’s also had conversations with college coaches who commented to him about recruits. “In many cases they have to reteach them how to practice once they get to college since they haven’t had enough practice time after having spent all fall and summer playing on the recruiting tour,” said Brashear.
Some college coaches have declined comment on the subject to Softball Nation. But in a recent interview, University of San Diego Pitching Coach and Team USA player Danielle O’Toole expressed her frustration with the early recruiting. “Now that I’m in this coaching position and I see eighth graders, I’m like, how am I supposed to judge this eighth grader and what they’re supposed to look like?” said O’Toole. “It’s definitely way to young and it’s unfortunate. And I know a lot of the coaches think that.”
The proposal is a recommendation from the Division 1 Student-Athlete Experience Committee following a study of more than 15,000 recruited student-athletes Sept 2017. The survey found that 40% of student-athletes in women’s basketball and softball reported their first recruiting contact in the ninth grade or earlier.
The survey also showed that student-athletes in almost every sport reported committing verbally to a school before official visit dates. Most student-athletes also reported taking unofficial visits in their sophomore year or earlier.
These rules would not apply to football or basketball since they have already made changes to their recruiting model.
The Division I Council will vote on the proposals during the 2017-18 legislative cycle, which calls for voting to occur in April 2018, according to Michelle Brutlag Hosick, Associate Director, Public and Media Relations. If adopted, all three proposals would be effective Aug. 1, 2018.