The NCAA once voted to eliminate contact between DI baseball coaches & recruits prior to September 1 of junior year in high school.
Baseball America states, “that the rule will go into effect immediately following the NCAA Board of Governors Meeting, eliminating the possibility of a rush of commitments before the new rule could have taken effect.”
This is a measure that compelled athletes to think more holistically about where they commit and evaluate all opportunities to play college lacrosse.
Baseball continues to be one of the fastest-growing sport in the nation. According to Collegiate Baseball, from 2012 to 2017, a total of 331 schools added programs. That resulted in a growth rate of 17.8 percent.
Few other sports had a growth rate above 10 percent. The recruiting, as you can imagine, has also intensified. Players are committing as early as eighth grade. Coaches are looking to gain any advantage they can in terms of onboarding the top recruits every year.
Many spectators have been pushing for regulation of early recruiting and are happy that the NCAA is finally taking action (although there is limited data that supports the rule change.)
However, there is a small contingent who think early recruiting has improved the entire baseball landscape. Early recruiting has created parity and given mid-majors a chance unlike the days when the top programs dominated. Perennially weak programs have become stronger because of overlooked student-athletes.
This rule has created a period of uncertainty for all stakeholders in baseball. Below are some of my thoughts on how the the rule will both negatively and positively impact the state of the sport:
- It takes pressure off of families. Parents, as a result of early recruiting, have become overly competitive. Parents are overwhelmed by pushing their kids to the recruiting camps, showcases and clubs with the hopes of being seen by the top academic schools.
- The rule will even the playing field for student-athletes no matter their socioeconomic status. Players that come from blue collar backgrounds and non-traditional areas will be allowed more time to develop. Reducing the prominence given to expensive recruiting circuit events will also open other opportunities to simply play the game without breaking the bank.
- Camps and tournaments will restructure. More attention will be brought to teaching the fundamentals of the game. The top recruiting camps have built substantial brand equity on being highly selective in who is invited to the camps and the high-quality of play. This will change and open up more opportunities for the average skilled players to participate and grow.
- Early recruiting created parity. Mid-majors have been able to recruit overlooked talent that have been under the radar or athletically underdeveloped. Mid-majors and small programs with lower travel budgets, poor facilities, and lower brand recognition will not be able to compete against the powerhouses. The historically dominant programs have the luxury of waiting longer in the recruiting process.
- The rule may cause coaches to manipulate the system and find loopholes. For instance, coaches arranging shadow visits through club coaches where there is no contact with the kid whatsoever. The club coaches will be given even more power.
- It’s going be a rush to get kids to visit September 1 of their junior year and coaches are going to have to offer scholarship money beforehand. Informing a student-athlete about a scholarship offer might be the only way to get him to campus. Only 12.6 scholarships are allowed per team. If a player knows five schools like him and three have told him he will get “X%” scholarship, what schools do you think he visits first?
- Denying a student-athlete his dream. More credit should be given to the student-athletes in the decision making process. More often than not, a top player will already know a range of schools where he wants to continue his education. It’s unknown whether the rule will influence the student-athletes choice of school.
Understandably, this is a polarizing topic for most stakeholders, especially parents. If anything, I think this rule change might help the game improve from an instructional standpoint and also help high school baseball become more important again. There clearly needs to be a better process — A conceptual roadmap to better position young student-athletes for future success.