INDIANAPOLIS -- Coaches have spent the last several years
upgrading their gadgets and learning the new tricks of recruiting.
Now it may be time to turn back the clock.
The NCAA Division I management council has recommended a ban on all electronically transmitted correspondence, including text
messages, between coaches and recruits. E-mails and faxes would be
exempt from the new rule but would be limited by current NCAA
Unlike restrictions on phone calls and in-person visits, there
are no coach limits on text messaging.
The Board of Directors must still pass the legislation, and if
approved at its April 26 meeting, the ban would take effect in
August. Typically, the board passes such recommendations, but if
it's delayed or rejected, coaches would revert to their previous
policy of no limits.
"I think student-athletes wanted to see this eliminated for
their own sanity," said Kate Hickey, the management council's
chairwoman whose term is about to expire. "And to get rid of some
of these bills."
The Student-Athlete Advisory Council, which represents college
athletes, complained during this week's meetings that the number of
text messages had become intrusive and costly.
Hickey, an associate athletic director at Rutgers, expects the
proposal to pass next week.
"I think it all depends on whether there's communication
between coaches and athletic directors and then, ultimately, the
board members over the next week," she said. "I think some of the
coaches on our staff are going to say 'Great, we can continue to
recruit the way we always have.' Others, I think, will say 'I can't
believe this.' "
For some coaches, the changes could become problematic.
Before this week's vote, Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating, a
former UCLA assistant, said coaches need to contact recruits
through modern means, the same way teenagers often chat with
friends and family, to build relationships.
The NCAA was concerned that unlimited text messages created a
loophole that permitted coaches to send a message asking recruits
to call them -- calls that would violate NCAA rules if the coach
made the call.
Dealing with the rapid technological advances has become tricky
for the NCAA. Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel has seen it all
"I've gone through the evolution of stopping at the payphones
in the cold and freezing to death [while] calling recruits, to cell
phones, to word processors -- you used to hand write everything you
did," he said. "Obviously, the text was the next thing. E-mail
became a part of the world, you know, I think you're used to change
and you're used to change being legislated as to how it affects
things. So I'll be anxious to see how this is taken care of."
Because it normally takes at least one year to pass a rule, new
features and devices sometimes appear in the marketplace faster
than the NCAA can regulate. So the management council took the
unconventional route by passing a broader measure over its usually
more specific ones.
"The reality is that it does keep us a little bit ahead of the
curve, for now," Hickey said.
The all-or-nothing approach wasn't the only one under initial
consideration. The Ivy League made two proposals: One that would
have limited text messaging and another that called for an outright
ban. The first measure failed in January.
Implementing the ban could cause other problems. Hickey
anticipates some coaches will cry foul and acknowledges enforcement
could be the next great challenge.
"I think it will be as difficult as any other rule we have
where there's a limited ability to track it," she said. "It's as
difficult as the phone call rule and the recruiting days rule. The
key with rules like this is education and trust, and not only
educating the coaches but the student-athletes, scholastic coaches
While the text messaging ban was this week's hot topic, it
wasn't the only major change passed by Hickey's committee.
It also passed a proposal that would allow college athletes to
try out for professional teams while still taking classes. The
current rules prohibit student-athletes from trying out while still
enrolled in school. The new measure would allow athletes to receive
money from pro teams to make a 48-hour trip. Or they could also pay
the bill themselves and not be bound by the time limit.
The stipulation: An athlete could not miss classes for the
"We're saying we can have a little bit of a compromise,"
Hickey said. "You don't have to drop out of school just to try
out. You could stay in school and continue to be a student."