<
>

If recruiting reforms happen, who benefits?

Monica Herndon/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

When the NCAA votes in mid-April and the Collegiate Commissioners Association meets in mid-June, both are expected to pass sweeping changes to college football recruiting that would allow for spring and summer official visits, place limitations on summer camps and create a December early signing period for the first time in college football. As with everything in college football, recruiting is also a competition. And make no mistake there will be winners and losers with the impending recruiting reform.

RecruitingNation takes a look at who could get a leg up or could fall behind in the new world of recruiting.

Early visits

Winners: Big Ten and other Northern schools
Losers: Southern schools

Most recruiters agree it's the schools in the North, especially programs in the Big Ten or Northern ACC schools like Boston College, Pittsburgh and Syracuse, that get the biggest boost from April, May and June official visits.

During the traditional official visit calendar schools usually bring prospects on campus for trips in November, December and January and every time that happens coaches are praying to the weather gods for sunshine and moderate temperatures. A snowstorm can wipe out an entire recruiting weekend and not allow prospects to make it to campus, or a cold snap while hosting players from Florida or Georgia could have those recruits hightailing it to a school in a warmer climate.

But during the spring and summer months, it's an entirely different story.

"There are not many better places in the spring and summer than the Twin Cities and the state of Minnesota," Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said. "It's some of the most beautiful weather you'll find in the entire country. That's what we look forward to showing off."

Mississippi State assistant recruiting coordinator Niel Stopczynski couldn't agree more. He worked previously at Northwestern and knows the draw of Chicago and the entire Great Lakes region in the spring and summer months.

"If I'm in a place that's near the Great Lakes or in the Northeast that has to deal with bad weather for four or five months of the year, I'm am ecstatic with early visits," Stopczynski said. "You can bring your kids in during the early parts of June. The weather is gorgeous. The lake is beautiful, or at least you have wonderful weather and you can go outside without a bunch of heat and humidity. Kids will fall in love with that and sign with Northern schools. The Southern part of the country might have a little bit of a gripe."

They have a gripe for the same reasons Northern schools have an advantage -- weather.

"June would actually be negative for schools down in Mississippi, Louisiana and south of the Mason-Dixon Line because it's so humid and it's so just blistering, terribly, miserably hot," Stopczynski said. "Combine that with the students not being there and it's just not a good idea for the schools in the South. I just don't think you'll see too many ACC and SEC schools use the early visits. We're so close to the talent that we'll just have them come on unofficial visits and save the officials for later on."

Summer camp limitations

Winners: Schools near major metro areas and in talent deep states
Losers: Rural programs

Another piece of the reform package would require schools to use not more than 10 non-consecutive days for conducting or participating in football camps. That's different than the previous regulation, which allowed coaches to participate in camps during two periods of 15 consecutive days. Camps must also now be conducted by NCAA member schools and take place on the school's campus or in facilities the school primarily uses for practice or competition.

In theory, this puts an end to the lengthy nationwide barnstorming tours like Jim Harbaugh's Summer Swarm Tour and other satellite camps that were held at high schools or run by private organizations. But college football fans are going to have to get used to a new terminology in its place -- mega camps.

Since coaches can still attend camps run by other college programs as long as it counts as one of their 10 allotted camp days, schools all over the country are in the planning phase of what some recruiters are calling "mega camps." With the extremely limited days to hold these camps, coaches believe they might end up being way more intense and notable than any individual satellite camp of the past couple year. Plus, the new rules could even allow for an entire conference to team up for a one-day camp on a college campus.

Recruiters seem to all agree the winners in the new era of mega camps will be schools in major metro areas or schools in states where there is plenty of talent.

"Just watch, we'll see Lane Kiffin get together with Jim Harbaugh to host a camp at FAU and not invite a single SEC school," a Big 12 recruiting coordinator said. "Just imagine the type of talent in Florida that would show up for that. I know we would love to work with a school like SMU or Dallas to do a mega camp that will have a lot of the top Texas players at it. There just aren't as many good players here in our backyard, so we'll go to where the talent is at and do these big camps."

An ACC recruiting coordinator said he would love to team up with Georgia Tech to host "an ACC camp in Atlanta" or maybe get together with a program like "UCF because it's in Florida." A Pac-12 assistant said he's already asked his recruiting coordinator to reach out to both UCLA and USC to see if they would be allowed to attend one of their one-day camps this summer "because of the talent they'll likely have and won't be at our camp."

"We haven't finalized our plans, but we are going to pair up with other schools," Arizona general manager/director of player personnel Matt Dudek said. "We have a few other plans, too. We're going to have to think outside the box. Everyone is."

Early signing period

Winners: Blueblood programs, schools that recruit early
Losers: Schools that don't adjust

Ever since new recruiting legislation was originally proposed in October, there's been an overwhelming thought throughout the coaching community that college football's elite programs would best be able to take advantage of an early signing period.

Most coaches are in agreement that blueblood programs will be able to lock down players earlier than ever before and get a head start on next year's class, while Power 5 programs that don't recruit at a top-25 level will still be trying to finalize their classes in February. Recruiters also agree that these elite programs will be able to give some top players a "sign now or we'll move on" ultimatum in December.

"What else will they do?" SMU defensive coordinator Van Malone said. "It's going to happen regardless. In many ways it's already happening. You see the top schools give deadlines to recruits all the time. You see these elite programs already recruiting two or even three years out, and now they'll be able to go ahead and sign these guys and move on to the next class or even the one after that. It's the type of advantage you have when you're at a program like that. You can't compete against it now and it'll be even harder to compete against it when the new rules are in place."

You'll be hard pressed to find a coach at a Group of 5 or a lower-level Power 5 program that doesn't have tale about how they recruited a player for almost two full years, and then two weeks before signing day in February a bigger program comes along to poach away that recruit. It's maybe the single most frustrating part of the current process for a lot of recruiters, and with a December signing day they could be rewarded for uncovering a hidden gem.

"Now I don't have to sit in front of Johnny Five Star's house all night and make sure nobody comes in," Malone said. "I can move on because I know where Johnny is going. He's telling me what I needed to hear because he's already signed with us. I get rewarded for putting in all of the work that I've done and don't have to ever worry about somebody coming to steal him away at the last minute. Every school is going to benefit from this."

They'll only benefit if they're willing to adjust, though. Some coaches have still not adjusted to the current way of recruiting and dislike how expedited the process has become and the results are lackluster recruiting finishes. But many recruiters agree that if those coaches don't adjust, especially to the early official visits and early signing period, those schools are suffer like they never have before.

"Recruiting is one of the most competitive parts of college football," Kansas coach David Beaty said. "You have to be willing to adjust to the new rules and think a little bit differently, because if you don't you're going to get left in the dust."