Text-messaging ban to be implemented Aug. 1

INDIANAPOLIS -- College coaches will have to recruit the old-fashioned way next year.

The NCAA's board of directors approved a ban Thursday to eliminate all text messages from coaches to recruits beginning in August, then left open the possibility of revisiting that legislation as early as 2008.

"One of the abuses that was described to us were text messages from a coach to a player saying, 'Call me,'" Division I vice president David Berst said on a conference call.

As a result, coaches will no longer be allowed to send text messages to recruits.

High-school athletes face far fewer restrictions. A recruit, for instance, could still message a college coach although the coach could not respond under the new rule.

The move comes a week after the NCAA's management council recommended passage of the ban, which also eliminates communications through other electronic means such as video phones, video conferencing and message boards on social networking Web sites.

E-mails and faxes would still be permissible and subject to current NCAA guidelines, which include some time periods that prohibit coaches from contacting recruits in any form.

What it means to coaches is fewer opportunities to attract players through today's high-tech tools, and rely more on the post office, e-mails and phone calls.

The proposal was creating concern among today's tech-savvy coaches even before Thursday's 13-3 vote.

On Monday, Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, responded to the management council's
decision by sending a letter to the board asking it to delay a vote until compromise legislation could be worked out.

The Student-Athlete Advisory Council had complained that text messaging was too costly and so intrusive that it sometimes bordered on harassment. Some of those stories prompted the board to ignore the coaches' plea and vote anyway.

"The board was swayed very much by what the student-athletes had to say," Berst said. "We heard anecdotal stories of someone waking up and having 52 text messages."

In an unusual move, however, the board also indicated it would listen to new proposals. Typically, rules are approved or rejected without comment.

"I think it recognized there may be other ways of monitoring communications in the future, so it's open to proposals," Berst said. "But, for now, text messages have been eliminated."

The board had given groups such as the coaches associations and conference officials an opportunity to make formal proposals prior to Thursday.

None, Berst said, was received by the board before Thursday's meeting. A less restrictive measure on text messages was defeated by the management council in January, leaving the board with a decision on the all-or-nothing approach.

Previously, there were no limitations on how many text messages coaches could send.

"They would certainly be willing to listen to something that's viable to a complete ban," Berst said. "I think they recognized we had a dilemma where student-athletes suggested there were some problems with text messages whereas coaches and assistant coaches wanted it to continue."

Teaff acknowledged last week some restrictions were needed and suggested placing limits on the months text messages would be permissible.

Jim Haney, executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, offered to support a measure reducing the hours text messages could be sent -- such as not during school hours or late at night.

Enforcing the new measure also could prove difficult.

"It's just like enforcing any other rule," Berst said. "You're not allowed to buy a kid a hamburger when he goes on the road, but that's tough to enforce, too. There are many rules that, on the face of them, are unenforceable."

The board also approved a package intended to help increase graduation rates among baseball players.

Among the measures that will take effect in August 2008 are:

• Requiring transfers to sit out one year before regaining their eligibility like football and basketball players. Baseball players currently receive a one-time exemption from that rule.

• Teams that fall under the NCAA's new cutline to determine academic progress, a score of 900, also could face a 10 percent reduction in the number of games played and practices allowed. That means some teams would lose up to six games from the current 56-game schedule and 13 of 132 practices.

"I think the baseball community has taken very serious steps to ensure that players can achieve those measures in the classroom as well as continuing to be successful on the field," NCAA president Myles Brand said.