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Published: 6/10/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

New text rules set by NCAA

Relaxed regulations a boon for coaches

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

"R U interested in our school? Our facilities are gr8!"

A text message reading along those lines might appear on cellphone screens of basketball recruits starting Friday, after a new NCAA rule takes effect allowing college coaches to send unlimited text messages to players who have completed their sophomore year of high school.

Coaches also will be able to make unlimited calls to those recruits under the new legislation.

A move aimed at weeding out superfluous bylaws in the NCAA manual, the game-changing measure is a departure from current rules that forbid communication via text and limit coaches to one phone call per recruit in a month.

"I would have a concern with the word unlimited and I certainly think a parent would be uncomfortable with the word unlimited," Whitmer coach Bruce Smith said. "As a college coach you have to have common sense to know when you're recruiting a kid actively and when you're quote-unquote stalking a kid."

Text messages were outlawed by the NCAA five years ago amid concerns of excessive use and athletes accruing astronomical charges. Advancement in technology and the rise of unlimited text plans create an atmosphere to revisit the issue, with men's basketball set to be the guinea pig. No other sports have adopted the reform, although women's coaches could follow by next year.

"I think a lot of women's coaches want to sit back and watch and see how that goes before they jump on the bandwagon," University of Toledo coach Tricia Cullop said.

Preliminary returns are mixed, with coaches standing to benefit the most, and recruits being rendered a standing duck in an onslaught of 160-character missives.

"I'm kind of curious to see what it brings in those first couple of days," said Napoleon's Jordan Lauf, who counts UT and Bowling Green State University among his six scholarship offers.

Some theorize the change could result in quicker commitments, a recruit's way of surrendering to the constant buzzing of his phone. A reduction in transfers is another possibility, as coaches and recruits are granted more time to size up each other. About 425 NCAA Division I players transferred after last season, according to CBSSports.com, a figure that exceeds the number of teams (347).

"This allows the recruit and the family the ability to build a better relationship," BG coach Louis Orr said. "It helps in the long run because you know who they are and they know who you are."

UT coach Tod Kowalczyk advocates the change, believing the deregulation of minor rules makes it easier for the NCAA and for university compliance officers to "go after the truly important violations." He recognizes dangers, though, such as a coach disrupting the life of a 16-year-old.

"I really hope that families put up parameters of when college coaches can call or text and hold those coaches accountable," Kowalczyk said. "The last thing I want is for my staff to burden a family in their family time."

Minimized is the role of high school coaches, used previously by college coaches to circumvent rules restricting phone calls. Instead of navigating back channels to set up a meeting with a recruit, coaches will proceed unassisted.

Other changes include the regulation of workouts. Coaches now can put a recruit through a tryout on his official visit as well as give instruction to freshmen in the summer.

Gone will be many inadvertent recruiting violations. For instance, UT was assessed a secondary violation when an assistant replied to a text message sent by a recruit expressing condolences after the coach's father died. Another assistant phoned a prospect twice in one month, forgetting to make record of the first call. In either case UT reported the violation and avoided penalty.

Under the old set of rules, Kowalczyk didn't respond to congratulatory texts from numbers he didn't recognize, fearing the note might have been sent by a recruit or his parent.

"If I don't recognize the number, the last thing I do is reply," he said.

Those concerns, come Friday, will be over. A new era is under way.

"That date has kind of been in my head for a couple of months," Lauf said.

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @RyanAutullo.



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