Among the most talked about stories in college lacrosse in 2012, perhaps none was bigger than the recruiting of high school underclassmen.
Nearly three years after the first recorded oral commitment by a sophomore, Johns Hopkins made history by accepting the first such commitment from a freshman – attackman Forry Smith of Haverford School in Havertown, Pa. Two more commitments from fellow members of the Class of 2016 soon followed.
Meanwhile, the steady stream of sophomore commitments continues, totaling nearly 100 for the year, according to Inside Lacrosse. Now, just before the calendar flips to 2013, comes word that the NCAA could take action on recruiting in general – but it appears the intended changes would have little, if any, effect on the acceleration that lacrosse has seen in recent years.
According to an NCAA.com article, the NCAA Rules Working Group has recommended to the Division I Board of Directors that it adopt 26 proposals, the majority of which are aimed at recruiting. Chief among the proposals, which were outlined during a Dec. 17-18 meeting in Indianapolis, is one that would move the official date when coaches may verbally contact recruits to July 1 after their sophomore year; off-campus contact would be allowed starting with the first day of a recruit's junior year.
All rules changes would apply to all sports, not just lacrosse. The board will vote on the proposals Jan. 19 at the NCAA convention in Grapevine, Texas.
Under current rules in Division I, a coach cannot initiate a conversation with a player until after July 1 preceding his senior season. On the flip side, there is no rule limiting when players are allowed to initiate conversations with coaches or make unofficial campus visits. Coaches also are permitted to speak directly to high school and club coaches. This wide-open atmosphere has engendered the arms race among coaches to recruit underclassmen and land commitments at ages that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.
The NCAA’s move toward deregulation does not come as a surprise. Among other proposals by the Working Group are two that would "eliminate restrictions on methods and modes of communication" and "eliminate restrictions on sending printed recruiting materials to recruits." In June, the NCAA changed its rules to allow men’s basketball coaches to send as many text messages and make as many phone calls as they wish to recruits who have finished their sophomore year. (Previously, coaches had been banned from texting recruits, and calls were limited to one a month.)
Thus, it appears that any limitations on early recruiting will have to come from the Intercollegiate Men’s Lacrosse Coaches Association. The association met this month in Baltimore for its annual convention, and recruiting trends sparked a lot of talk -- though talk is all it stayed. What remains to be seen is whether those words will translate into action.