P

roposal 2017-1 has been a hot topic at the lunch table for Kacy Hogarth and her friends.

The freshman at Agnes Irwin School in Rosemont, Pa., is like many around the country trying to figure out what the landmark lacrosse legislation — passed last Friday by the NCAA Division I Council to curtail early recruiting — means for her.

"> Coaches, Players and Parents Try to Navigate New Recruiting Rule | USA Lacrosse Magazine

PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

Proposal 2017-1 passed to much fanfare. But the new recruiting legislation's immediate implementation has left some scrambling for answers.

Coaches, Players and Parents Try to Navigate New Recruiting Rule


P

roposal 2017-1 has been a hot topic at the lunch table for Kacy Hogarth and her friends.

The freshman at Agnes Irwin School in Rosemont, Pa., is like many around the country trying to figure out what the landmark lacrosse legislation — passed last Friday by the NCAA Division I Council to curtail early recruiting — means for her.

“It kind of freaked me out at first, because I was in the process of talking to more college coaches,” Hogarth said. “Now that I think about it, it’s more relieving. It’s very stressful to worry about college. This will give freshmen like me a chance to work on your studies and find your fit academically and lacrosse-wise.”

Prospective student-athletes, parents, club coaches, high school coaches and college coaches are all trying to sort through the new rule’s effect on their respective positions. The rule blocks all recruiting contact — including in-person, phone and electronic communications — between college lacrosse coaches and prospective student-athletes and their families until Sept. 1 of their junior year.

“We’re all kind of curious to see what the groove is going to be,” said Joe Amplo, head coach of the Marquette men’s lacrosse team. “There’s the rule and guys are going to figure out how to work within the rule. There’s some curiosity to see how people are going to proceed.”

The proposal was authored by the IWLCA and has been in the works for nearly three years. The IMLCA and US Lacrosse also championed the legislation, and the NCAA approved the rule as sport-specific solution just for lacrosse.

“US Lacrosse kept this issue on the public radar — that made a huge difference,” said Samantha Ekstrand, legal counsel for the IWLCA. “The issue was compelling, and the NCAA acted.”


“It kind of freaked me out at first, because I was in the process of talking to more college coaches. Now that I think about it, it’s more relieving.” — Kacy Hogarth, a freshman midfielder at Agnes Irwin (Pa.)


When the proposal passed Friday, it went into effect immediately.

“Everybody and a lot of colleges were surprised at how fast it happened,” said Casey O’Neill, head coach of a nationally recognized high school boys’ lacrosse team at Gonzaga (D.C.). “It’s something they wanted, even the schools that commit kids earlier, but now that it’s been put into action so quickly, I don’t know if people know what to do at the moment.”

A 24-hour recruiting frenzy followed the announcement. There was confusion about the implementation date. Some believed that the rule did not go into effect until April 26, when the NCAA Board of Governors will approve much of the other legislation passed by the Council last week. But the lacrosse recruiting rules were deemed “non-controversial” by a Council vote so they would go into effect immediately and not leave the door open for college coaches to squeeze in commitments.

“How it got rolled out created some confusion,” said Duke women’s coach Kerstin Kimel, the chair of the IWLCA’s NCAA Division I legislation committee. “Once we learned it was effective right now, we knew people needed to put the brakes on.”

Said Ultimate Lacrosse director Michele DeJuliis: “There are some kids that unfortunately are caught in the middle. Some of those ’19s and ’20s were in the process of visiting and potentially committing that now have to hold off. The bottom line is now they don’t have to rush to get to this visit and that visit before they get into the summer and that frenzy. We did think it was going to be a madhouse trying to scoop up the remaining ’19s and ’20s before that rule went into effect. I think it threw everybody off that it was immediate.”

Ryan McClernan has fielded complaining phone calls. The longtime Crabs Lacrosse director had a parent argue that the rule ends the “free market” feel of early recruiting.

“Most people playing club are hoping their child is talented enough to commit early anyway,” he said. “They’re in it to win it. In my club, there’s probably more disappointment than relief.”

Billy Spilman is an attackman/midfielder with the Crabs team who made the Gilman (Md.) School varsity this year as a freshman. He has been taking college visits all fall and winter with the intention of making a verbal commitment soon. He’s pushed back any announcement now and keeping an optimistic outlook.

“It’s not like the colleges are just going away,” Spilman said. “You just have to wait. It’s better for high school players and the NCAA, because everyone has to keep striving to do their best on the field and in the classroom.”

Hogarth is in the same boat, and feels similarly. The new rule pushes back her ability to contact coaches more than 16 months, and likely pushes back any commitment.

“Now that this new rule is passed, I’m not so stressed out about making a decision ASAP,” Hogarth said. “I’m not that worried about making a decision this summer or fall of sophomore year.”








The most immediate effect comes for prospective student-athletes in the classes of 2019, 2020 and 2021. Some, like Michael Swirbalus, are already verbally committed. The St. Sebastian’s (Mass.) sophomore midfielder changed his commitment from Cornell to Duke in October, but hasn’t spoken to Duke since the winter and now can’t talk to any member of the Blue Devils’ coaching staff until Sept. 1.

“I guess it’s kind of weird, but it’s much easier for me than a lot of kids,” Swirbalus said. “It is a very helpful rule. It’ll help the late bloomers. I’m not opposed to it.”

Others aren’t as excited about the new rule. Katherine Pasquale is another sophomore, but the Academy of Notre Dame (Pa.) attacker, hasn’t committed to a college yet and isn’t too happy about having to wait.

“I was kind of shocked when it was passed, and annoyed,” she said. “A lot of people have gotten their chances and there are a few of us who maybe wanted to commit in the summer and are not able to now.

“Now I feel like I have nowhere to go,” Pasquale added. “I feel like if you can’t talk to the coaches, then you’re in a state of, you don’t know what to do. I feel stuck.”

Alea Tooley is concerned what it will mean for her younger teammates from her Team 180 club in Colorado. Tooley is a sophomore who committed to Denver last year. She always wanted to stay in Colorado for college and familiarized herself with the Denver program through contact at camps and on campus. She is worried that the window for others will be narrower.

“With the younger girls, they’re not going to understand the coaches and the culture until their junior year,” Tooley said. “I feel like with their commitments, it’s not going to be based on the culture of the school and the coaches and what they want. It’s just going to be on, ‘I want to play in college.’

“For me, committing to DU was based on the coaches and me talking to them at camps and getting to know them at camps and what they’re like and how they coached. I feel like the younger generation is going to lose a lot of important things when committing to a college.”

Club and high school coaches are trying to assure players and parents that everything will work out. Jenny Duckenfield coaches with Pasquale’s club, Ultimate Lacrosse, and is head coach of Agnes Irwin.

“College coaches are sending email blasts out saying that, ‘The kids we were watching, we’ll continue to watch you and go through the process the right way,’” Duckenfield said. “There will still be communication through the coaches and still through the club coaches.

“The process is going to slow down, but it’s not going to be immediate, because I think you’re going to have coaches that want to get their kids and line them up to keep them.”

That worries parents from Katy O’Mara’s team. The director of the Carolina Fever club has players who were lined up to visit schools in the next week.

“Some of them are stressed out now because they haven’t had a chance to get up to campus and have that in-person meeting,” O’Mara said. “I’ve had parents ask me, ‘Are we at a disadvantage because we put off that visit because we were focusing on our scholastic season?’ And a lot of kids who are in that Philadelphia or Baltimore area were able to have that visit one afternoon on a Saturday because it’s a lot easier for them to get there.”

O’Mara also worries about the uncommitted players from the classes of 2019 and 2020 getting caught in a pinch by the new rule, but sees it helping her club further down the road if it gives more opportunities for players in less established lacrosse areas.

“I have kids coming into their own as Division I players and the process absolutely passed them by,” O’Mara said. “This legislation is going to really help the growth of the sport, particularly in those markets where it’s really starting to take hold.”

There is concern that players may forego fall sports to take college visits as they try to race to fill schools’ spots after Sept. 1.

“I don’t know one coach who wants a kid to miss a game to come take a visit,” Kimel said. “You want kids committed to their sport and their teammates in the fall. Visits may end up going September through December. People are just going to have to get used to the new normal.”

Players are relying on their high school and club coaches now to stay in touch with colleges. Spilman is happy he’s on a well-connected Crabs team.

“I know that high school coaches and club coaches are more important than ever to get kids on college coaches’ radar maybe to get them to come see them play,” he said.




Agnes Irwin (Pa.) and Ultimate Lacrosse coach Jenny Duckenfield has had to reassure her players and parents that their recruiting prospects won't vanish with the slower timeline.


Club and high school coaches are not permitted to go beyond that step. They will still be able to talk to college coaches in an evaluative process, but the IWLCA and IMLCA sent their members an email Wednesday that clarified the new rule and its interpretation by the NCAA: “Club and high school coaches may NOT be used to circumvent recruiting contact rules. Direct messaging to PSAs through these third parties is NOT permissible. Communication about verbal offers through these third parties is NOT permissible.”

Club and high school coaches are seen by some to stand to gain the most power from the new rule. But Jeff Brameier, the Darien (Conn.) High School boys’ lacrosse coach and director of the CT Chargers club program, doesn’t think that will happen.

“Realistically, you want to be a voice for the kids and a go-between and help the kids find their spot and help the coaches find your kids,” he said. “To say that we’re going to have a lot of clout, that makes it sound like it’ll be the college coaches trying to circumvent the rules. I don’t like that premise. The rules were put in place to give the players time to develop and the coaches a chance to watch them develop.”

Enforcing the new rule will be the job of compliance officers at colleges, and they have been scrambling to field questions on the do’s and don’ts of the new legislation.

“The biggest question has been, ‘Is this real?’” said Duquesne compliance officer Mike Scerbo, the school’s former women’s lacrosse coach. “The next question is, ‘How are we going to monitor this?’ From our standpoint, we’re going to have to comb through phone records more, and spend more time dissecting phone numbers and keeping lists of phone numbers on file that we know are permissible calls that would be received vs. calls that would be impermissible.”

Scerbo was head coach of the Dukes for 11 years before moving into compliance. He was and is a proponent of curtailing early recruiting, but sees a difficult road ahead on the compliance side, particularly in monitoring private phone calls.

“If you’re one of those types of people that will break the rules to win, then you’re going to do it no matter what the rules are,” Scerbo said. “For us to catch them now is going to be very difficult to do.”

There was so much support for the legislation from college coaches that he’s hoping that won’t be the case. The IWLCA and IMLCA are working to produce a guide to the new rule to educate their coaches, and education is an important step in the early days after the rule passage.

“It’s on everybody,” Scerbo said. “It’s on [US Lacrosse] and your staff to publish articles as much as you can to make sure people are reading as much as they can. It’s on the kids themselves to go on the NCAA sites and read and research the rules. It’s on our college coaches, it’s on the high school coaches and club directors. We all have to take a part in the educational side of things. If we do, the information will get out there quickly and there will be less violations because everyone will be educated.”

As the lacrosse community adjusts to one of the most significant pieces of legislation ever passed, the IWLCA has begun to set its sights ahead for the coming years.

“We do have other things that we think are really important for our sport and our players that we need to do to next,” Kimel said. “We’re going to wait and do the same level of diligence that we did with this. We’re not there yet. We want to be calculated about what our next steps are. We have not even surveyed our coaches about them, so that would be premature to say what’s on our radar next.”