NCAA Deregulation: Top 5 Proposals in First Step to Reduce the Rulebook Staff Member January 16, 2013 Agent Compliance, NCAA Athlete Agent Regulations Jon Solomon Alabama Live One of the most meaningful NCAA conventions in some time begins Saturday in Grapevine, Texas. The NCAA Board of Directors will vote on the first phase of NCAA President Mark Emmert’s goal to reduce the size of the Division I rulebook that infuriates many people. The NCAA says some rules are outdated and unenforceable, not to mention there’s a belief college athletics should focus on bigger issues. So the NCAA is shifting its regulatory focus from the phrase “competitive equity” to “fair competition.” In other words, the NCAA rules would acknowledge that some schools simply have deeper pockets, geographical advantages and additional superiorities over other schools. Many of the 26 proposals up for consideration — such as unlimited text messages and phone calls to recruits, staffing decisions and limited extra benefits to players — could further widen the gap between the haves and have-nots. “The reality is the haves are going to continue to separate from the rest of us because now the concerns are not about competitive equity,” said Samford Athletics Director Martin Newton, who supports most of the proposals. “There’s never been such a thing as a level playing field. The NCAA is probably saying, ‘We have to make sure our bell cows don’t break away totally so we have to do things with rules.’ I think it’s a matter of time before there’s a break.” Here are 5 significant proposals from the Rules Working Group that the Division I board will consider at the convention. 1. Allow unlimited communication to recruits and earlier. One proposal removes the limit on phone calls and allows all forms of communication, such as text messaging, as long as it’s private. Another legally pushes the recruiting process to start sooner. If these rules pass, coaches could begin to more aggressively contact players starting July 1 after their sophomore year of high school. The NCAA says the earlier date would allow coaches and recruits more time to develop relationships and make good choices. Deregulating communication would come with irony. Five years ago, then-Indiana basketball coach Kelvin Sampson received a five-year show-cause penalty for providing false information to the NCAA about impermissible phone calls he and his staff made. Greg Sankey.jpg SEC Executive Associate Commissioner Greg Sankey “This proposal is probably the lightning-rod issue,” said SEC Executive Associate Commissioner Greg Sankey, whose conference supports the proposals. “We’ve been mixed over time. There is a point where the number of accidental issues have created momentum to make the change.” Example: A recruit takes a visit to a football game and a coach can’t get cell service to reach the recruit. The coach sends a text message knowing it will eventually go through. By rule, that’s not allowed now. “There was a time when text messaging was acceptable and then it was prohibited,” Sankey said. “In the quick-timed nature of society, it’s been five or six years so maybe a generation has passed. Cell phones are different. What’s important is coaches manage themselves and this not become abusive if it’s allowed.” Newton, the Samford AD, expects coaches would have even less of a life with unlimited texts and phone calls. “You’re always going to be worried about the next guy doing it,” he said. “I believe they really need to put some regulations on what time of day you can text and call. I get the fact these kids can look at their phone and say, ‘I’m not answering that call.’ “But you know as well as I do, teenagers take their phones everywhere and they don’t turn them off. You can’t tell me that at 5:30 in the morning that phone isn’t going to be going off and that kid has a decision to make.” 2. No restriction on which staffer contacts recruits. Right now, recruiting coordinating functions — calls, e-mails, letters, evaluations, etc. — can be done only by a head or assistant coach. This means those non-coaching staff members who increasingly pop up aren’t permitted to do what they’re probably doing. This proposal would remove that limitation. The only limit for non-coaching staff members would be they couldn’t be involved in off-campus recruiting. Newton believes this could create separate player-personnel departments. Martin Newton.jpg Samford Athletics Director Martin Newton “The model they’re going to is professional football,” he said. “I could see the big schools saying, ‘We have the resources, so you’re in charge of recruiting, you’re in charge of coaching, and we’re going to separate the two.’ It won’t happen at the majority of FBS schools. There are only 20-some schools making money as it is.” Sankey said he has never considered the possibility of separate personnel departments if the rule passes. In 2011, the NCAA floated a proposal that would limit non-coaching staff members to 12 in Division I football and six in men’s basketball. “What’s clear is non-coaching staff sizes have proliferated around the country,” Sankey said. “There is still an effort to take a look at those in the next phase. I think it’s probably a little bit too early to predict (separate personnel departments) because there may be some changes to alter what someone’s projection may be.” 3. Allow athletes a limited benefit. This proposal would let an athlete receive $300 more than actual and necessary expenses, provided the expenses come from a permissible source. Basically, this would alleviate the NCAA from putting some athletes through the tedious reinstatement process that can lead to suspensions and athletes paying their extra benefits received to charities. Who’s a permissible source? Event sponsors and club teams, yes; boosters, agents and professional teams, no. What counts as actual and necessary expenses for competition? There’s another proposal that would define this as things such as lodging, apparel, equipment, coaching, medical costs, transportation, facility usage and entry fees. In a story at athleticscholarships.net, NCAA rules expert John Infante wrote that this proposal “looks too much like a loophole for athletes to cash in, however small the profit may be.” 4. Treat recruits like college athletes when they sign. Under this proposal, recruits who sign their National Letter of Intent or scholarship papers would be immediately treated like college athletes when it comes to recruiting rules. Also, an athlete who takes summer school classes prior to initial enrollment will no longer be considered a prospective college athlete. Why do this? The NCAA says this would further develop the athlete/coach relationship by permitting access between the coach and an incoming signee. What does the proposal exactly mean? Infante wrote it opens up “a can of worms” about what a signee’s status means because the proposal is vague in details. He expects a significant number of override requests from NCAA members. 5. Permit team entertainment at any time. Right now, team entertainment is only allowed on a road trip, during vacation when the team is in-season, and the night before a home game (although only a movie). The new rule would allow schools to provide “reasonable entertainment in conjunction with competition or practice.” As Infante wrote of this proposal, which he supports: “Allow the mind to wander a bit about what schools might do and you can see why many will object.” To learn more about all of the NCAA proposals, read Infante’s summary of the proposals, which mark the NCAA’s first steps toward deregulation.