After almost five years of debate and numerous proposals that were adjusted or scrapped entirely, college football recruiting has been reformed.
The NCAA Division I Council on Friday passed Proposal No. 2016-116, a comprehensive package of rule changes developed in response to an order from the NCAA Division I board of directors -- the university presidents and chancellors who grew weary of the inefficiencies that have long plagued recruiting.
The legislation revamps early official visits, places limits on hiring individuals associated with recruits and affects three other key areas of the football recruiting process. It also allows for a 10th full-time assistant coach, which will become effective on Jan. 9.
Jim Phillips, Northwestern athletic director and chairman of the Division I Council, said the changes represent significant progress for recruits, student-athletes and coaches.
"This affirms that the new Division I governance structure can effectively and timely address important issues," Phillips said in a statement.
With the proposal's passage, prospects will be allowed to take official visits, paid for by the school, from April 1 of their junior year through the Sunday before the last Wednesday in June. Before the change, official visits were not allowed before Sept. 1 of a prospect's senior year. The change in the recruiting calendar becomes effective Aug. 1 and will first affect the 2019 recruiting class.
The early visits are designed to work in tandem with an early signing period, which was not part of the agenda this week in Indianapolis. Conference commissioners, who administer the national letter of intent, are expected to vote on a proposed mid-December early signing period at their meetings in June.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, who chairs the Division I Football Oversight Committee, said he expects the vote on a early signing period to pass.
"We have every expectation that the December date would be approved at the June meeting of the Collegiate Commissioners Association," Bowlsby said. "But I would be remiss if I didn't say we're going to continue to take a very close look at early signing dates. We know that approximately 70 percent of college football prospects make their decisions prior to the middle of the football season of their senior year. Those young people need to have an option available to them to terminate the recruitment process earlier than December."
Also part of the new legislation are strict rules that mirror what is used in college basketball for individuals associated with prospects, or IAWP. The IAWP rules are designed to prevent schools from hiring anyone associated with a prospect for noncoaching positions.
For example, the high school coach of a prospect is not allowed to take a paid or volunteer job as an analyst or strength coach at the college recruiting that coach's prospect. An IAWP is permitted to take a job at the same college only as a full-time, on-field coach.
Penalties for violating the IAWP rules range from permanent ineligibility of the players involved to the suspension of a head coach or assistant. The IAWP rules are effective immediately and retroactive to include contracts signed on or after Jan. 18, 2017.
"This really emanates out of the camp conversations that we had," Bowlsby said. "There are a lot of shenanigans that have been going on in the camp environment where a high school coach or a seven-on-seven coach shows up with a busload of kids and gets a big honorarium for bringing them to camp while they're having a so-called unofficial visit.
"There isn't anything in this piece of legislation that keeps people moving from one job to the other -- either from a high school position or from one college position to another college position. What it does do, however, is put restrictions on a high school coach that would take a noncoaching position with a university and then bring two or three prospects with him. There's a quid pro quo that is troubling in the recruiting environment, and we sought to change that and regulate that."
Another important piece of the proposal reduces when coaches can conduct camps from two 15-day periods in June or July to 10 days in June. It also requires camps to take place on campus or at facilities used primarily for practice or competition by member schools.
This rule is effective immediately and essentially ends the lengthy, nationwide satellite camp tours like Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh's Summer Swarm Tour that became a hotly debated topic in college football the past two summers. However, the new legislation does allow for recruiting conversations to take place at camps and clinics, a change to prior rules.
Also bundled in the proposal is the limitation of annual scholarships to 25. This is a move to do away with oversigning and to reduce the practice of grayshirting, a tactic by which schools delay the enrollment of a prospect until the following January so his signing would technically count as part of the next class.
The legislation limits to 25 the number of prospects whose aid is initially offered in the fall term of an academic year. Before, rules limited to 25 the number of prospects allowed to sign from Dec. 1 through May 31. This portion of the changes will affect newcomers in the 2018 signing class.
The new rules also create an expanded summer dead period for the entire month of August and from Monday before the last Wednesday of June through July 24. This allows coaches to take a break from the recruiting trail, spend more time with their family and focus on the start of fall camp in August. This portion of the legislation doesn't become effective until Aug. 1 and will affect the class of 2019.