by Sparks editorial staff

The NCAA has announced that effective August 1, college recruiters may contact juniors via text, phone call, or e-mail starting September 1 of their junior year, which means recruiting season may be starting earlier for juniors. Previously, coaches were not allowed to call athletes until July 1 before their senior year. They could still e-mail with juniors, but the juniors had to initiate the contact and they couldn’t call or text juniors back (if they left a voicemail, for instance). Here’s the fine text:

NCAA Rule Change 2013 – 26

  • For sports other than basketball, cross country/track, and swimming & diving.
  • Permits telephone calls to a PSA (or his or her relatives or legal guardians) at institution’s discretion beginning September 1 at the beginning of the PSA’s junior year in high school;
  • Permits any form of electronic correspondence (e.g., electronic mail, IM, facsimiles, text messages) to be sent to PSA (or the PSA’s parents or legal guardians), as specified.
  • Cross country/track retain current telephone and general correspondence legislation.
  • Swimming & diving retain current telephone and general correspondence legislation

This is significant change as it will permit text messaging and outgoing phone calls to juniors.

While this is a significant rule change and we do feel it will make an impact in the rowing community, we do not feel it will change many coaches’ recruiting calendars on a basic level. This is given:

1) The “recruiting economy” in rowing is still on coaches’ side – there are thousands of junior programs worldwide and under 175 college rowing programs. Thus, coaches have freedom to wait in the recruiting process as opposed to getting competitive about all but the top 5% of recruits.

2) Kids can develop very late into good oars people. More than a minority on the Olympic team walked on in college. It is not unusual for our firm to see students who are novices in the fall of their junior year find their way into top programs if they demonstrate the necessary talent.

3) The workload for college rowing recruiting coaches in the fall is currently very high (80+ hours/week)  just dealing with seniors. Adding juniors to the mix will add some flavor, but may exceed the capacity of some coaches’ bandwidth.

There is a potential of seeing college programs in a more developmental stage using the rule change as an opportunity to reach out and contact top recruits earlier than the top 10% of programs  – however, we believe it will be unusual for top 10% programs to change their calendars much, at least initially. The fall will continue to be focused on high school seniors and gaining commitment to early decision applications and the early signing period. The spring will be devoted (only in part) to identifying and communicating with juniors. Extremely talented juniors (national team or top 5% – see the article on 2Ks) may get a phone call.

We do anticipate that parents may feel the need to organize their school lists by winter of junior year. This is probably good for the community, which tends to sometimes suffer from a lack of thought on the process or good fit until the last minute. The number of “unofficial visits” may come up. It may also benefit developing programs by allowing them to take a proactive approach to recruiting, however we advise that students not commit to the idea of any one school before weighing all of their options in the early fall. We would also warn against being too concerned with “marketing” one’s self or one’s student based on early recruiting attention.

[Post script 6/1/14]: IRA (men’s Division I) coaches voted at their annual meeting to maintain prior contact rules centered on no calls before July 1 of rising student’s senior year.

What the NCAA Contact Rule Means for Rowers
Sparks discusses the NCAA Contact Rule change and how it applies to rowers.
Train in Europe