New England Lacrosse Journal - April 2017 - 6
STATE OF THE GAME
Step in the right direction
Proposed recruiting rule change
helps, but larger reforms are needed
hen April 15 rolls
around, you likely
are to hear all
about how recruiting has been
Don't believe it.
Yes, experts expect the NCAA Division 1 board of directors to approve
legislation at a meeting April 13-14
that will prohibit contact with potential
student-athletes before Sept. 1 of their
junior year in high school. It will be
hailed as changing the game, ending
the days of middle-schoolers making
college choices two years before they
have a driver's license, and a year or
more before they step on the field for a
varsity high school game.
More than three-quarters of the
coaches on both the men's and women's
sides of the sport have endorsed the
rules changes, including the very
coaches who are the reasons why the
rules need to be changed.
"If this legislation does get passed,"
Johns Hopkins men's coach Dave Pietramala told the Baltimore Sun, "it puts
everybody in a position where they can
have more information, everybody can
take a deep breath, and these younger
guys will have a chance to develop and
grow and blossom a bit more, and we as
coaches will have more of an opportunity to evaluate.
"This is a very good step, and I think it
would be a positive for all of us. I say that
given that we are a guilty participant of
the process now, but I think for all of us, it
would be beneficial moving forward."
It's nice of Pietramala to acknowl-
edge the role he's played in the problem, as the Baltimore Sun story including that quote links to an article about
the commitment of a 14-year-old to
Hopkins, and showing Pietramala with
his arm around the shoulders of the
That kind of overt contact - and
commitment - will be outlawed by the
new rules, but it wasn't really supposed
to happen under the old ones.
And therein lies the
problem: In the hyper-competitive world of collegiate
lacrosse - where coaches
from the top programs always will have interested recruits, even if they wait until
kids mature - every coach
who believes they need an
edge or who fears falling beCHUCK
hind is going to see if they
can game the system.
If the rules pass, the
calendar will now include "recruiting
periods" - when coaches are allowed at
high school and scholastic events - and
"evaluation periods," when coaches can
recruit at any type of event. There also
will be dead periods, when no contact is
The hope here is that some emphasis
can be put back into the high school
sports schedule - where top players
have been less involved in recent years
because club play has dominated the recruiting scene - and to reduce the pressure to compete in events year-round,
which leads to youngsters "specializing"
in one sport, increasing the likelihood
of injury and burnout.
The ill side effects of recruiting pressure show up in numbers suggesting
that participation in lacrosse is leveling
off, that college transfers are on the rise,
and that there is a higher rate of burnout among both players and coaches.
It's not just a lacrosse problem; the
National Alliance for Youth Sports
recently reported poll results showing
that 70 percent of youth athletes quit
organized sports by age 13. In a world
where the best 14-year-olds are committing to colleges, it certainly makes
sense that a lot of ordinary athletes
think their career is done when they will
never get that kind of attention at a similar age.
If approved, the new rules
go into effect Aug. 1. At that
point, the scouting and evaluation process still can begin
early, but direct recruiting
contact between a Div. 1
coach and a prospect before
Sept. 1 of the junior year
would be prohibited. (Committed players who aren't
yet juniors - and schools
have been pushing for more early commitments in order to stay ahead of the
potential rules change - will be barred
from recruiting contacts, too.)
The existing rules already have that
timeline, but allowed for earlier contact
made on campus and/or initiated by the
That's how the system ran amok.
College coaches recruited players
through club teams, with club mentors
encouraging players to attend camps or
clinics and to visit the schools. Certain
types of interactions - like phone calls
- weren't considered "contact."
How much of that behavior is eliminated by the new rules is unclear; while
phone calls may now be out - though
that has been debated as the rule has
progressed - other incidental contacts
are tough to police.
Clearly, college coaches haven't been
able to save themselves from their own
competitive urges, and while the new
rules are an effort at salvation, it's more
likely a Band-Aid than a cure. Talk to
college and club coaches and you already can hear that they are cooking up
ways to make sure that top players get
attention without drawing the wrong
kind of scrutiny from the NCAA.
If the proposal fails to pass, the
NCAA typically has not reconsidered
defeated resubmitted/altered rules
ideas for two years after they are voted
down, which would leave the current
system festering until at least 2019.
The NCAA can't legislate that
coaches - both college mentors and
the money-hungry hordes running club
lacrosse - care more about the players
than they do about "winning."
Remember, this is a group that
knows what's morally and ethically
right - which is why so many college
coaches support change - but which
hasn't been able to actually do the right
thing on its own.
No rule will change that character;
the NCAA can't alter human nature.
So when the rules pass - and I believe they will - it will be a step in the
Until proven otherwise, however, it's
a very small step rather than a fullblown revolution. To truly clean up and
improve the recruiting scene, a lot more
reform will be needed.
Chuck Jaffe is a contributing columnist for New England
Lacrosse Journal. He is a longtime observer, player, coach
and official for both men's and women's lacrosse at all
levels. He is a partner in the Boston Box Lacrosse League
and he runs BullsEye Lacrosse.
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