The NCAA will soon vote on early recruiting legislation that could reverse a troubling trend in lacrosse.

Landmark Decision: Upcoming NCAA Vote on Early Recruiting

“Somebody’s got to save us from ourselves.”

Those were the words of Drexel men’s lacrosse coach Brian Voelker, who worried about the growing trend of early recruiting, as quoted in The New York Times. It was published May 25, 2012, but college coaches have been looking for measures to slow early commitments since 2008.

They say early recruiting has raised the pressure for prospective student-athletes to commit before they are developmentally ready, led to mistakes by coaches who commit to players years before they will join their program, and trickled down to hurt younger levels of lacrosse.

“It is a scourge,” US Lacrosse CEO Steve Stenersen said.

Now the NCAA DI Council will vote on Proposal No. 2016-26 when it meets April 13-14 in Indianapolis, and its passage could make lacrosse the pilot of a new anti-early recruiting movement. The landmark measure would ban all recruiting contact, including phone calls, between college coaches and lacrosse players until Sept. 1 of their junior year of high school.

“We’ve kind of been the pioneers here,” said Duke women’s head coach Kerstin Kimel, the chair of the IWLCA’s NCAA Division I Legislation Committee. “This is clearly a hot topic in college athletics. I think something is going to be done on some level.”

If the proposal passes, it could go into effect Aug. 1, 2017. If not, the NCAA has typically not reconsidered defeated proposals that are resubmitted for two years.

“Let’s hope we can get the lacrosse [proposal] through this April,” said Harvard athletic director and DI Council member Bob Scalise. “And if not, we’ll keep pushing as soon as we can.”

“It’s hard for [the NCAA] to be on the wrong side of us saying this is what is best for kids,” Notre Dame men's lacrosse coach Kevin Corrigan.

The Proposal

Proposal No. 2016-26 has plenty of support, but is it enforceable? It’s also just one of 42 recruiting propsals submitted to the NCAA Legislative Committee last year, with several other sports seeking similar reforms.

Scalise argued that adopting the measure would allow compliance officers to use lacrosse as a pilot program “which would inform a bigger, broader reform movement down the road.”

Previously existing NCAA rules on communication like emails could help, said Tricia Turley Brandenburg, the deputy director of athletics at Towson who also is president of the National Association for Athletics Compliance and sits on the NCAA Legislative Committee.

“We have plenty of rules on the books that are challenging to enforce,” Brandenburg said.


Minutes from a 2008 IWLCA meeting show a proposal barring verbal or written agreements before the end of a prospective student-athlete’s junior year. It never made it into the NCAA legislative cycle.

A 2009 IMLCA proposal to keep recruits from visiting coaches on campus before a specified date was considered too sport-specific by the NCAA. In 2012, the IMLCA ran into the legislative moratorium, Voelker said, in its proposal to limit recruiting contact until after sophomore year.

Early commitments escalated furthermore during the NCAA’s four-year moratorium on all legislative proposals. Spencer Parks (North Carolina) was the first sophomore to verbally commit in December 2009. In November 2012, Forry Smith (Johns Hopkins) became the first freshman to commit. Caitlyn Wurzburger
(Syracuse) became the first eighth-grader from either gender to commit in January 2016. Brennan O’Neill (Penn State) became the first eighth-grade boy to commit in March 2016.

In September 2015, the IWLCA Recruiting Issues Committee, led by Kimel and Penn coach Karin Corbett, submitted two proposals to the NCAA. The first amended the recruiting calendar and extended the dead periods when coaches could not recruit, and the second prohibited recruiting contact with prospective
student-athletes until Sept. 1 of their junior year. That second proposal followed extensive surveying of their coaches and the lacrosse community, and 85 percent of coaches approved the measures. The IMLCA endorsed the recruiting proposal in December 2015.

The NCAA Student-Athlete Experience Committee voted in April 2016 for bans on unofficial visits and off-campus contact, but no restrictions on incoming telephone calls. College coaches saw this as a loophole that would render their proposal useless. They lobbied NCAA DI Council members about the importance of keeping the proposal intact, and Stenersen penned a poignant letter fighting for its approval.

The lobbying efforts of the lacrosse community were rewarded when the NCAA DI Council supported the entire proposal, adding back in the telephone call ban, in June 2016. That move put the proposal into this year’s legislative cycle.

Early Recruiting Effects

Lacrosse participation has leveled off, college transfers are rising, and coaches and players are burning out at a higher rate.

The epidemic is not unique to lacrosse. According to a poll conducted by the National Alliance for Youth Sports, 70 percent of youth athletes quit organized sports by age 13.

“It’s hard for [the NCAA] to be on the wrong side of us saying this is what is best for kids,” said Kevin Corrigan, the Notre Dame men’s lacrosse coach.

“We are at a tipping point,” said IWLCA president Alicia Groveston, the Grand Valley State women’s lacrosse coach. “Some sanity could be restored in the recruiting process.”

Parents also have felt a financial strain to pay for year-round play and events, and coaches may be missing players who can’t afford those commitments. Setting all recruiting contact back to Sept. 1 of junior year could reset the norm, bring fun back to the lacrosse landscape and lead to better overall experiences, advocates of the proposal say.

Key Figures

Corbett and Kimel were integral to the IWLCA’s push for legislative change and support. The legislation committee of Meredith Black (Marquette), Tracy Coyne (George Washington), Kerri Whitaker (Penn), Lindsey Munday (USC), Liz Robertshaw (Boston University) and Katie Woods (UConn) has continued to keep the proposal forging ahead. IMLCA president J.B. Clarke (Limestone), Taylor Wray (St. Joseph’s) and Dan Chemotti (Richmond) have led the men’s effort.

Scalise, who published “A Call for Sanity in College Athletics Recruiting,” in October 2015, Miami athletic director Blake James, Richmond athletic director Keith Gill and Texas Tech’s faculty athletics representative Brian Shannon have kept the issue on the table for the DI Council.


Forry Smith, of the Haverford (Pa.) School, committed to Johns Hopkins in November 2012, becoming the first freshman to publicly commit to a college for lacrosse. He's now a freshman for the Blue Jays.

What’s Next?

If the proposal is passed by the DI Council, it could become effective on Aug. 1, 2017, and coaches would have to go cold turkey on recruiting contact with any player before Sept. 1 of their junior year — including those who already have committed.

Could coaches start recruiting even earlier, such as middle school? Any recruiting contact with a student, no matter what age, designates that student as a “prospective student-athlete,” IWLCA officials say.

“The people who are going to cheat are going to cheat,” Corrigan said. “And the vast majority aren’t going to. But that kid knows when he has that first conversation early, that he’s talking to a cheater.”

Coaches believe the spirit of the rule also would dissuade anyone from pursuing eighth-graders and using third-party contacts for early commitments.

“If you are going to commit players via a third party, having never had a direct recruiting conversation with that student-athlete or the parents, then that is an enormous recipe for disaster on both sides,” Kimel said. “We’re counting on the common sense approach to this.”

Get the best and latest from delivered weekly straight to your inbox: