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The NCAA Division Council will vote on the early recruiting recruiting proposal April 13-14 when it meets in Indianapolis.

College Coaches Await NCAA Decision on Early Recruiting Proposal

Since 2008, Division I college coaches have tirelessly worked to develop legislation to stem early recruiting. Its passage would ban all recruiting contact, including phone calls, between college coaches and lacrosse players until Sept. 1 of their junior year of high school, but on the eve of the NCAA Division I Council’s meeting where it will vote on Proposal No. 2016-26, they have every range of predictions on what will happen to their landmark measure.

“I don’t know what’s in the heart and minds of the committee,” Johns Hopkins men’s coach Dave Pietramala said. “Nothing would surprise me. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they passed it and said, ‘This is a good thing.’ I worry that they grow concerned that they have to now address other sports than just men’s and women’s lacrosse – and does this impact other sports and how does it impact other sports and does that impact the way they think and vote?”

A proposal to curb early recruiting has been in the makings since August 2015, when the IWLCA found 85 percent of its coaches in favor of a change. Its proposal, which then was approved by the IMLCA in December 2015, was submitted to the NCAA with stipulations to ban all communication until prospective student-athletes are juniors and would expand the existing rule that prohibits only outbound contact prior to that date to include incoming contact, unofficial visits or off-campus contact. It attempts to close loopholes used to circumvent the existing recruiting rules.

The Division I Council is scheduled to vote on the proposed legislation Thursday and Friday in Indianapolis. It’s unknown which day it will vote on the lacrosse recruiting proposal. It could be accepted and put into effect immediately or on Aug. 1, 2017, but it also could be rejected, or altered or even pushed back to a later time.

“I’m very, very interested to see what the answer is going to be,” Stanford women’s coach Amy Bokker said. “We all want it. It’s definitely needed. On the back end, how does it get taken care of and regulated is going to be the trick of it.”

The enforceability question is driving pessimistic outlooks. They see it as a significant hurdle for the NCAA approval.

“My gut tells me that the NCAA will not pass this piece of legislation,” Virginia men’s coach Lars Tiffany said. “I don’t think they have the courage to tackle the early recruiting monster. It’s a tough piece of legislation to enforce, and I believe the NCAA is not prepared to try to enforce what the legislation entails.”

"Does the NCAA have enough courage to enact a piece of legislation that they think is difficult to enforce? I think it’s worth the fight.” — Virginia men's coach Lars Tiffany

Many coaches seem unclear on how regulation of the proposal will work. They have heard concerns from their compliance departments and athletic departments.

“Some people have said the enforceability is an issue, but I think that’s a copout,” Princeton women’s coach Chris Sailer said. “Once the rules are well-known and publicized, it’s obvious when a coach isn’t abiding by the rules. I don’t see that as a huge issue. It becomes an ethical issue at that point.”

Sailer is hopeful the proposal passes, but shares concerns that there are too many other sports now also submitting sports-specific proposals to change their own recruiting issues. There were 42 different recruiting proposals submitted for this year’s legislative cycle. Passing sport-specific rules hasn’t traditionally been the NCAA’s way, and something this significant would be revolutionary.

“All these other sports are getting involved, and trying to get everybody to agree on something that’s so all-consuming is going to be very difficult,” said Denver men’s coach Bill Tierney, who does not expect the proposal to pass. “The lacrosse world has an idea that it was their idea, and we’re going to push this through because we’re all altruistic and think the best for children, but there’s a lot of constituencies here that might make the vote not go the right way or the way they want it to.”

There is great uncertainty from coaches, who have put the recruiting proposal on a backburner during their seasons.

“We play Virginia on Saturday,” Duke men’s coach John Danowski said. “That’s all we care about. This is out of our hands. Whatever the rules tell us, we’ll do.”

Coaches say they are prepared for any outcome and ready to adjust recruiting practices accordingly, if necessary, but are putting the fate of recruiting’s future in the hands of the NCAA.

“Whether they want to take time and come up with something that’s appropriate for all sports could be a reason they don’t pass it,” Sailer said. “Or they might say, ‘Lacrosse has led the charge, let’s let them test it out and go from there.’ I’m not trying to guess which way it’s going to go. I’m just waiting to hear what they say.”

Johns Hopkins women’s coach Janine Tucker remains optimistic after seeing the hard work that went into building the proposal.

“They’re going to allow lacrosse to try to work through this,” she said. “Having both the men and the women on the same page and proposing the lax contact and things like that, I think it’s going to pass.”

“I think the lacrosse world has done a great job of making it known that this is something that they want to get a handle on,” Tucker added. “I’m not sure this is perfect fix. I’m not sure if there’s going to be unintended consequences. But right now, taking some sort of action is a really good first step and then we’ll all sort through making it better and better.”

How recruiting would look different exactly can’t be known, but coaches expect to see changes if it is passed.

“If it does pass, you’ll see some consequences there that may not be the most positive,” Pietramala said. “When that date comes in September of junior year, it’s going to be a sprint. What coach is going to be standing in a recruit’s home saying, ‘I’ve got a scholarship offer for you. Let’s go at 12:01 a.m. on the first?’ Do we go back to those midnight calls? Do kids start to say, ‘You know what, I don’t want to play fall sports because Sept. 1 is here and I got to go visit school A, B, C and D now because if I don’t, I may lose my opportunity.’ There’s going to be pressure to make decisions, but the pace when it does transpire, it will be frantic. It’ll obviously settle down at some point, but then it’ll get frantic again. I think that’s something negative that could come of it, but is that negative outweighed by the positives, which is we’re not recruiting 14-year-olds, and if we do that, when’s the 13-year-old going to come?”

Coaches have pointed out that asking to be regulated further is an indication of how seriously they want to slow that early recruiting trend. Coaches aren’t normally asking for more rules. Tiffany doesn’t see a way to self-regulate effectively.

“I’ve been in the meetings in the past where we’ve thrown around the idea of gentlemen’s agreements,” he said. “There are some people in the room that like the idea, but there are also other voices that step up and point out the holes in such a proposal. We do need an enforcer. Without NCAA backing, we’re not going to create our own rules.”

Bokker agreed: “We’re kind of talking out of both sides of our mouth. We have to see what’s important long-term, big picture, and if some coaches are saying the winning is more important and other coaches are saying, ‘Let’s see what’s best for these kids in our sport,’ we’re going to have to decide. I think we’re all hoping the NCAA will make that decision for us and then we’ll adhere to the rules.”


The passage of the proposal would ban all recruiting contact, including phone calls, between college coaches and lacrosse players until Sept. 1 of their junior year of high school.

The proposal has been Division I lacrosse’s best attempt to slow a trend that continues to find younger commitments. Both men’s and women’s lacrosse have seen eighth-grade commitments in the last year, and coaches don’t want that trend to go any younger. Not passing the proposal would be a blow to those efforts.

“In the minds of certain people, it would be a setback,” Pietramala said. “If it happens, then nothing changes for any of us. It’s status quo, and if you’re interested and want to recruit younger student-athletes, you can. If you choose not to, you can recruit them when they get a little older. You’ll continue to see more transfering. You’ll continue to see more poaching in the recruitment of committed student-athletes.”

“What has been accomplished is there’s a national conversation about it,” Tucker said. “So I see that as a real positive. Whether this passes or not, there’s way more people talking about it. There’s more parents and recruits who can feel more comfortable that they don’t have to rush themselves. I’d hope that coaches would be able to take a step back and say, ‘What can I do maybe a little differently?’ There’s still a lot of positives that can come out of this even if it doesn’t pass.”

And if it is passed, there is hope it will give coaches and recruits more time to find the right fit and slow down a trend that is putting pressure on younger prospects.

“The coaches who helped craft this piece of legislation have done a fantastic job with pointing out the pitfalls of early recruiting for all involved and the benefits of waiting and how it would benefit the NCAA’s future constituents instead of just worrying about its current constituents,” Tiffany said. “I think the people who wrote this legislation have done a fantastic job. I have no misgivings about what they’ve done. My biggest concern is does the NCAA have enough courage to enact a piece of legislation that they think is difficult to enforce? I think it’s worth the fight.”

Said Tierney: “If they pass it, we’re going to live by it.”

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