7-9-10 Proposed NCAA Ban on Early Verbals

PROPOSED BAN ON EARLY VERBALS

SPY Note:  The legislation is controversial, with prospects uncertain, but an NCAA Committee has proposed legislation which  could put a halt to early verbals, even early recruiting.  The following article appeared today in the Washington Post.

 

By Zach Berman

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 9, 2010

A proposal by the NCAA could potentially affect the college sports recruiting landscape — if only there were a consensus about how it could be enforced.

The Division I Recruiting and Athletics Personnel Issues Cabinet has proposed legislation that would prohibit college coaches from orally offering scholarships before July 1 in the summer between a high school prospect’s junior and senior years. The intention is to prevent schools from offering scholarships — and athletes from accepting the offers — before a prospect has a transcript with five completed academic terms or seven completed quarters.

The proposal, which could still be modified, would be the first piece of legislation to put a timeline on coaches orally offering scholarships and athletes accepting them. But because oral scholarship offers are not binding and not recorded, some are questioning whether it could be enforced.

Even Petrina Long, the senior associate athletic director at UCLA who chaired the committee, admitted that the rule would be difficult to enforce.

“Who I would like it to be enforced by is the coaches,” Long said. “I think that where we stand now that really, in all of our professions, there’s an ethical basis to everything that we do. If we continue to aim our legislation at the least common denominator, we’re not necessarily doing the best thing for our membership.”

Jim Larranaga, the men’s basketball coach at George Mason, supported the rule in spirit, but predicted that little would change as a result. He said some coaches would likely tell a prospect that they cannot offer a scholarship until July 1, but that a scholarship would likely be offered after that date.

Tim Parker, Virginia Tech’s compliance director, said it’s understood that informal offers are often made before official offers, and viewed the proposal as a response to a bigger issue: prospects being recruited early in their high school careers. He agreed with this effort, though he also wondered about how it will be regulated.

“I don’t think it can be enforced consistently,” Parker said. “It can only be enforced in those cases when the prospect or the prospect’s parents all the sudden become disenchanted and have an issue with the school they have supposedly entered into an impressible agreement with. They can use that to get out of it. To me, I see that happening down the road. I think it will be an inconsistent enforcement as a result of unhappiness.”

American men’s basketball Coach Jeff Jones believes the rule is needed because of how early recruiting is trending, citing the publicity generated when Billy Gillispie, then the men’s basketball coach at Kentucky, received an oral commitment from eighth-grader Michael Avery in 2008. Southern California football Coach Lane Kiffin also received an oral commitment from 13-year-old quarterback David Sills in February. Jones said the rule could have a positive effect on coaches, because they would not be pressured into making premature scholarship offers.

Virginia football Coach Mike London likes the idea of having more time to determine whether a player can fit at a school academically. He said there are times when coaches are impressed by a player’s athletic profile, but are not yet sure abut the player’s grades.

Larranaga, who has two sons who played college basketball, spoke from experience when he said teenagers are not prepared to make decisions so early in their high school careers. He also said parents sometimes misinterpret interest from a college coach, such as a letter, as a scholarship offer.

But Larranaga and Jones are among the coaches who would like to see the proposed date changed to earlier in the recruiting calendar, and Long concurred that the date remains a point of discussion. She said the cabinet settled on July 1 because academic transcripts would be available by the date, when five terms of high school have long been completed.

The details will continue to be a point of discussion, and the proposal will not be voted upon until the NCAA convention in January. Until then, the debate will likely continue.

“It benefits all parties . . . to make a decision later in their high school career . . . when all parties know what they’re getting into and it’s a more informed decision,” Parker said. “However, this type of proposal . . . that is essentially unenforceable is problematic for us as compliance professionals because not only is it going to be inconsistently enforced, but it weeds into the cynicism of why would you vote in rules and regulations that you really have to rely on the prospect and the family to convince anyone that you broke the rule?”

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