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New NCAA rules will turn college recruiting into "the wild, wild West"

Mike Bianchi

SPORTS COMMENTARY

8:35 PM EST, February 7, 2013

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If you think it's bad now, just wait.

If you think college football recruiting has become too big and too time-consuming and too insanely excessive, just wait.

If you think 17-year-old high school football players have become too self-important, too entitled and too overindulged, just wait.

If you think confused recruits committing, decommitting and recommitting is bad now, just wait.

Just wait until the new recruiting rules kick in and college coaches begin inundating Billy Bluechip with phone calls, text message, smoke signals and love letters.

"It's going to be ridiculous," UCF coach George O'Leary says. "… The people who make these rules don't have a clue."

"Man, oh man, oh man," an exasperated Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said.

"It's crazy," said Evans High School coach Chip Gierke. "We've already had to tell our players they can't bring their cell phones into the locker room. Now it's really going to get out of control."

These respected college and high school coaches are referring to the new recruiting rules that take effect Aug. 1 when college coaches will be permitted by the NCAA to make unlimited phone calls and send unlimited text messages to high school recruits.

In the past, coaches have been limited by dead periods and were only allowed to make one phone call per month from June 15 to July 31 to recruits who had finished their sophomore year, and two phone calls per month after Aug. 1 of their junior year. The NCAA actually banned college coaches from texting recruits back in 2007, but now suddenly will allow unlimited texts and phone calls.

"It's going to be like the wild, wild West," O'Leary says.

The NCAA likes to preach academic integrity but then pulls a stunt that will become a nightmare to high school coaches and teachers everywhere. How can you say you're serious about education when you're giving thousands of college head coaches and assistant coaches carte blanche to call and text high school students at all hours of the day and night?

It will be like recruiting telemarketing. Alabama will hire an army of minimum-wage workers to sit in a windowless room all day and text recruits while masquerading as Nick Saban. Even those college coaches who might not necessarily like the new rules will be forced to inundate recruits with daily messages. "If you're not calling them," Fisher says, "somebody else is."

Can you imagine? A kid is sitting in geometry class and his phone buzzes with a text message from Will Muschamp: "Hey, buddy, don't forget the Pythagorean Theorem: a2 + b2 = c2 … Go Gators!."

And then Saban texts: "The most common congruency theorem is side-angle-side. … Roll Tide!"

And finally Urban Meyer: "Click attachment below for the answer key to the test!!! … THE Ohio State University!"

Let's face it, many college football recruits are already serious academic risks. Like many teenagers, they are addicted to their iPhones and spend entirely too much time texting and tweeting when they should be reading and writing. Imagine what it will be like when the new rules are implemented.

"Everybody is going to want a piece of them," Gierke says. "They're going to be on their phones 24/7. When are they going to do their homework?"

Adds O'Leary: "These poor kids are already struggling in school as it is. Now they're going to be getting texts and phone calls all day."

Fisher, like many college coaches, would like to see an early signing period so programs can get the brunt of their recruiting classes locked up. This would eliminate the need for all the coaching phone calls and text messages and all the player decommitments and recommitments. More importantly, it would allow recruits to then concentrate on their high school studies and playing for their high school teams.

"College football should be trying to help the high schools, but these new rules are going to kill us," Gierke says.

In the spirit of the recruiting season, it's time for NCAA President Mark Emmert to hold a news conference and announce his intentions:

"After much deliberation," Emmert should say, "the NCAA has decided to decommit from these dreadful rule changes and recommit to academic integrity."

mbianchi@tribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at BianchiWrites. Listen to his radio show every weekday from 6 to 9 a.m. on 740-AM.