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Who wins with early visits? Recruits and their familes

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Several reasons exist to question the touted positive impact of a 12-week early period for football prospects to make official recruiting visits, pushed Wednesday at the NCAA convention to the brink of approval this spring by the Division I Council.

The recruits would arrive on campus in April, May and until the Sunday before the final Wednesday of June with transcripts available, in most cases, for only five semesters of high school coursework.

Much of the proposed time for early visits overlaps with the spring evaluation period that sends college coaches on the road. College campuses are often empty during the latter portion of the visit window.

Under the proposed calendar, impatient prospects might burn official visits in the spring of their junior years, leaving few -- or none -- of their allotted five visits to use when decision time is near or after postseason coaching changes.

None of this mattered Wednesday enough to give college administrators pause in taking a big step toward enacting major reform in the stagnant world of recruiting legislation. Proposal 2016-16 is expected to pass in April as a near formality after clearing this hurdle at the NCAA convention.

“If you have a decent chair, it’ll get through,” said Northwestern Athletic Director Jim Phillips, chair of the D-I Council. “We’ll see what happens.”

What’s likely to happen is that the proposal will pass in April, chopping summer camps to 10 days of on-campus activity -- essentially the end of satellite camps -- adding to staffs a 10th assistant coach and barring the hire of prospects’ high school coaches or associates for support-staff roles in college.

It will also create an April, May and June window in which college programs can pay for the visits to campus of high school juniors and their parents, likely starting for the Class of 2019.

And for all the reasons to question this change, it is a good change primarily for one reason.

Not because it stacks up as a significant victory for geographically isolated programs of the Big Ten West or Pac-12 North that aspire to recruit nationally. Not even because it gives coaches another jump on assessing recruits in the ever-escalating recruiting cycle.

It’s good change because it benefits prospects, easing stress and a financial burden.

Recruits are the winners.

“I’m good with it,” Phillips said. “I really am. Even with my Northwestern hat on, I don’t look at it as advantage-disadvantage. I look at it as, is it the right legislation that should be enacted by us in college football?

“And it is, because that’s what the prospects are stating. That’s what our current student-athletes are stating about their recruiting experience.”

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, as a member of the council and the chair of the Football Oversight Committee -- which drafted the proposal -- said he recognizes that not all coaches will feel enthused about early visits.

In fact, the power programs in Bowlsby’s league, Texas and Oklahoma, would surely prefer to make it no easier for prospects in the Lone Star State to see campuses at Ohio State, Nebraska or Colorado in the spring of their junior years.

“But it’s very good for student-athletes and their families,” said Bowlsby, echoing Phillips. “On balance, it’s an overall package that appropriately advances recruiting in the footprint of college football.”

Phillips and Bowlsby, under a directive from the Division I Board of Directors to enact change to the recruiting model, have grown fond since the proposal was unveiled last fall a 10-word phrase: “You can’t let perfect stand in the way of progress.”

Phillips almost said it again on Wednesday after the council met. He shifted course slightly.

“You can’t let perfect stand in the way of, really, a great, comprehensive package,” Phillips said.

“You could rub your nails against the chalkboard on, ‘Hey, is it really April 1? What about May 1? But I think you just get a point where you want to build some consensus, and that’s what we were able to do.”

It's not often that administrators and coaches forge a compromise for the betterment of student-athletes. Here, they're one voting formality from doing it.