The college baseball recruiting world turned upside-down this past week after the NCAA Division I Council approved recruiting changes that will drastically alter recruiting. In essence, the new rules eliminate recruiting communication between college coaches and high school underclassmen, including scholarship or roster offers.
The new rules make August 1st of a prospective student-athlete’s junior year the first day when recruits and college coaches can communicate for recruiting purposes. The August 1st date will also be the first day 3rd parties (HS/Travel Coaches/Recruiting Advisors) can act as intermediaries between college coaches and players/families, eliminating the most enabling loophole to underclassmen recruiting with the current rules. These changes will have a significant impact on early recruiting and curtail or conceivably end underclassmen verbal commitments. The new legislation goes into effect April 26th and will apply to everyone, forcing even underclassmen who have already verbally committed to a program to cease communication with the coaches at schools they plan to attend until August 1 of the summer before junior year.
To say the recruiting landscape has drastically changed is an understatement, so let’s look at exactly what the new rules say and what has changed.
Current Communication Rules
- College coaches can initiate communication with recruits starting September 1 of junior year
- Recruits can initiate communication with college coaches at any point in time
- 3rd parties can help facilitate communication times and messages to circumvent the rules and assist with recruiting dialogue between college coaches and recruits
- Verbal offers and verbal commitments have no limitations, so long as the communication doesn’t break any NCAA rules
New Communication Rules Starting April 26, 2023
- Coaches AND Players cannot initiate communication prior to August 1 of junior year (the summer before junior year for many players)
- 3rd party communication between a college coach and a high school/travel ball coach to a recruit or recruits family is now against the rules prior to August 1 of the summer before junior year
- No unofficial or official campus visits or off-campus contacts can take place prior to September 1 of junior year
- There are no longer any restrictions on the total number of official visits that are permissible per prospective student-athlete, but only 1 official visit will be allowed per institution unless there is a coaching change
What the Rule Changes Mean
The new rule changes are a huge step in the right direction for delaying the recruiting timeline and curbing underclassmen commitments. We’ve discussed at length the risks of underclassmen verbal commitments, why you shouldn’t commit until you are 100% ready, and how coaching changes impact recruits more the earlier they commit. These new rules effectively put an end to offers prior to August 1 of junior year and should slow the recruiting timeline down for players.
The end of the third-party loophole is also a major change. Enforcing such a rule will be difficult, but in substance, the rule change represents a major departure from today’s recruiting methods and possibilities.
Winners and Losers of the Rule Changes
Curbing early recruiting should be seen as a win for those most closely involved in the recruiting process (players and coaches). College coaches no longer have to court 14 year-olds to keep up with their competition in the rat race for commitments. 14 year-olds no longer have to make the biggest decision of their lives so far before they are even legally old enough to drive a car. Families can take a sigh of relief, pump the breaks, and learn about the recruiting process and college baseball before having to make any big decisions. All these things are good.
The biggest winners will be those players who are development driven and putting in the most work. Offers will be flying around on August 1 each year, and those who improve the most between 8th/9th grade and then will benefit the most. Programs who draw well to camps or are located in heavily populated urban areas may also benefit from the increased value placed on camps and the proximity to camp populations.
The losers in this ordeal are those in the recruiting industry who rely on underclassmen recruiting to drive their businesses and make money. You can expect to hear a lot of “NCAA shouldn’t legislate free will to make a decisions” and “NCAA is overreaching” from those who aren’t happy about the rule changes.
The Ripple Effect: Camps Just Got a Lot More Valuable
Coaches and programs will adjust to find new loopholes to gain a competitive advantage in spite of the new rules. The most obvious work-around will be an increased value placed on both individual and team camps, which will still be considered open communication and available to all. If a school really wants to build a relationship and possibly clue you in to an offer that is coming on August 1 (“We aren’t allowed to offer you, but if it was August 1 we’d offer you XYZ…”), camps are the easiest way. Camps will be the best way for schools to quietly let slip how much they value a player and work with that player to get to know them better. The types of camps we will see will change because camps will become one of the only permissible ways for coaches to really get to know players off the diamond before August 1. Don’t be surprised if camps also include quick meetings with the coaches and more classroom-type situations.
We hope this helps clarify the changing D1 recruiting rules and offers you some clues as to how the rule changes may impact you. Our best advice is to enjoy the delayed recruiting timeline and use the additional time to prepare for a shorter window to make your decision by researching college baseball and college programs, taking time to understand the ins-and-outs of the recruiting process, and focusing on getting better. If you do these things, you’ll be in great shape come August 1st of junior year!