UPDATED: On April 18, 2018 the NCAA Division I Council made some significant changes to the recruiting calendar for most potential student-athletes (football and basketball have their own set of rules). The intent is to allow potential student-athletes more time to make thoughtful decisons about their next steps after high school.
Here’s a brief synopsis of how the rules have changed:
- UNOFFICIAL VISITS: athletic departments (i.e. the baseball coaches and staff) cannot participate in a recruit’s unofficial visit until September 1st of the recruit’s junior year in high school. Gone are the days when your high school freshman/sophomore is carted around campus by the baseball coach and then given free tickets to a football game. But your freshman/sophomore can still visit the college and take a tour through the admissions department, just like any other prospective student to the college, but there can be no visiting with the baseball coaches and staff or tours of the facility while there.
- OFFICIAL VISITS: in the past, the official visit wasn’t allowed until the first day of classes of a recruit’s senior year and was more of a formality as it allowed the baseball program to bring in all the committed, incoming recruits and their families for a formal orientation of sorts either before the national signing day or after. Now, however, the official visit can now begin September 1st of the recruit’s junior year in high school. The number of official visits is still limited to five and is paid for by the college. However, most players only used one official visit because they were committed long before they could actually take an official visit. This new rule change may now cause the recruit to use all of his five official visits. If that happens, then four schools will now be paying for an official visit but will lose out on the recruit. This could end up costing baseball programs much more money from their already strained recruiting budgets. So what was being paid by parents, i.e. the unofficial visits, will now be paid by the schools in the form of an official visit.
- WHO PAYS FOR WHAT DURING VISITS: straight from NCAA, “During an official visit the college can pay for transportation to and from the college for the prospect, lodging and three meals per day for both the prospect and the parent or guardian, as well as reasonable entertainment expenses including three tickets to a home sports event. The only expenses a college-bound student-athlete may receive from a college during an unofficial visit are three tickets to a home sports event.”
- BASEBALL CAMPS AND/OR CLINICS: recruiting conversations cannot happen at these camps and/or clinics until after September 1st of the recruit’s junior year in high school. Previously, if the recruit was on campus at one of these camps/clinics, the coaches could actively recruit them no matter which year they were in.
- FREE TICKETS TO HOME SPORTING EVENTS: coaches can no longer provide free tickets (no more than three) until after September 1st of the recruit’s junior year.
The NCAA rules say coaches can’t contact a recruit until September 1st of their junior year but athletes are verbally committing to and talking to schools well before that. Seeing freshmen and sophomores verbally commit to offers made me downright suspicious. How could these players be communicating with the college coaches? I had no clue. Why wasn’t it a recruiting violation? As a parent of a 15U player who was suddenly thrown into the recruiting fray of college baseball, I had the sinking feeling that we were already behind in the recruiting process. What was I missing?
Knowledge of the recruiting rules and calendars. That’s what this article is specifically designed to provide you.
Here is the exact wording the NCAA uses to describe their recruiting rules:
“NCAA member schools have adopted rules to create an equitable recruiting environment that promotes student-athlete well-being. The rules define who may be involved in the recruiting process, when recruiting may occur and the conditions under which recruiting may be conducted. Recruiting rules seek, as much as possible, to control intrusions into the lives of student-athletes.”
The key to the above statement is to “prevent intrusions into the lives of student-athletes.” It’s no secret that the NCAA recruiting rules were written to prohibit when a college coach can contact an athlete but not when the athlete can communicate with them. The NCAA considers a college coach calling you a potential “intrusion into” your life but if you initiate the contact, it’s not an intrusion.
The NCAA defines recruiting as “any solicitation of prospective student-athletes or their parents by an institutional staff member or by a representative of the institution’s athletics interests for the purpose of securing a prospective student-athlete’s enrollment and ultimate participation in the institution’s intercollegiate athletics program.”
Coaches Can Talk, If You Call Them and They Answer
(UPDATE: the following does NOT apply to women’s softball which now follows the “lacrosse” model of no recruiting communication and/or contact between the prospective student athlete (including their parents, travel ball coaches, and high school coaches) and the college coaches until September 1st of their junior year in high school. Note: if a player calls a coach prior to September 1st of the player’s junior year in high school, the coach can answer but all the coach can do is confirm the player’s age, explain the recruiting rules, and terminate the call. Baseball isn’t there YET.)
NCAA rules might prohibit a baseball college coach from calling a freshman or sophomore, but, if that freshman or sophomore calls the baseball college coach and the coach picks up the phone, the player can talk to them about whatever they want.
However, if the freshman or sophomore calls a coach and he doesn’t pick up, the coach cannot return your call. Same if the freshman or sophomore texts the coach. Don’t wait for a return text or phone call. They can do neither.
Proactively calling and having a coach answer is how college coaches and recruits get around the NCAA contact rules to talk with one another before an athlete’s junior year. Another way to get around the contact rules prior to September 1st of his junior year are having the college coach communicate with your High School or Showcase Travel Coach.
In addition, freshmen or sophomores may write a letter or email a coach. Maybe send a video embedded in an email. But before his junior year, coaches will only be able to write back and thank you him for his interest. They’ll include a player questionnaire and maybe a generic invitation to one of their summer/fall/winter HS showcase camps on campus. To learn more about whether it’s worth the money to attend these college camps at their campus, read this post.
For us, the calls started in his 15U fall season. Several colleges who saw him play during a tournament called his showcase travel team coach and asked that he call the college coach at say 3:15 pm that afternoon. The travel coach provided my son with the coach’s cell phone and at exactly 3:15 pm my son calls the coach. The coach answers the call and knows exactly who it is!
Have a Plan For The Call
They chat for about 15 minutes. It was a good learning experience. My son was mainly answering, “yes sir,” to all the coach’s questions without much else. Then they hung up. Of course, he was young, but he was also missing a valuable opportunity to promote his game and solidify next steps. My son and I had some terrific real-life conversations about interview skills and the main ideas he really wanted the coach to take-away from the conversation. We came up with three things:
Grades, Passion, and Recent Successes.
He always wanted the coaches to know how things were going in school. Good grades can’t be communicated enough. Passion for the game also needed to come out in his own way. Whether it was talking about how he loves to field a ball deep in the hole and throw somebody out or maybe his approach at the plate. Perhaps the things he’s doing off the field for strength and conditioning in order to help improve his game. And then make sure that he has at least two recent successes on the field that he wants to point out. Went 2-3 in the last game with a double and 3 RBIs. Did a fake pump to bait a runner to round third too hard and then back-picked him. And if you have video, offer to text it to him.
If it was a school he was really interested in, then the goal at the end of the call was to arrange an unofficial visit to come see the campus and spend time with the coaching staff. UDPATAE: now you can’t do an unofficial visit to spend time with the coaching staff until after September 1st of his junior year. If it’s in the fall, try to pick a weekend when they are practicing and when there’s a football game. Have the dates picked out in advance of the call so he can suggest and confirm those dates on the phone with the coach. If it’s in the spring, then he’ll likely catch one their baseball games but it will be a busy weekend for the coaches and tough to spend much time with them.
Recruiting Rules By High School Grade
As a Freshman or Sophomore in high school
- Recruiting Materials You may receive brochures for camps and questionnaires.
- Telephone Calls You can call the coach. The coach cannot call you.
- Texts You can text the coach. The coach cannot text back.
- Emails You can email the coach. Coach can reply thanking you.
- Official Visits Not Permitted
- Unofficial Visits Not Permitted
September 1 of his Junior in high school
- Recruiting Material You can receive material and information from the coach.
- Telephone Calls You can call the coach. The coach can call you.
- Texts, Emails All forms of electronic correspondence are allowed.
- Official Visits Permitted (limited to 5)
- Unofficial Visits Unlimited
You get one official visit per college and a maximum of 5 visits to D1 schools, and unlimited for D2, D3 and NAIA schools.
D1 Recruiting Calendar
The current NCAA Division I Baseball recruiting calendar runs August 1st, 2018 through July 31st, 2019.
- 08-01-18 thru 08-26-18 Contact Period
- 08-27-18 thru 09-13-18 Quiet Period
- 09-14-18 thru 11-11-18 Contact Period
- 11-12-18 thru 11-15-18 Dead Period
- 11-16-18 thru 02-28-19 Quiet Period *with the following exception (1)
- (1) 01-03-19 thru 01-06-19 (1) *Dead Period
- 03-01-19 thru 07-31-19 Contact Period
What is a contact?
A contact occurs any time a college coach says more than hello during a face-to-face contact with a college-bound student-athlete or his or her parents off the college’s campus.
What is a contact period?
During a contact period, a college coach may have face-to-face contact with college-bound student-athletes or their parents, watch student-athletes compete and visit their high schools, and write or telephone student-athletes or their parents.
What is a quiet period?
During a quiet period, a college coach may only have face-to-face contact with college-bound student-athletes or their parents on the college’s campus. A coach may not watch student-athletes compete (unless a competition occurs on the college’s campus) or visit their high schools. Coaches may write or telephone college-bound student-athletes or their parents during this time.
What is a dead period?
During a dead period, a college coach may not have face-to-face contact with college-bound student-athletes or their parents, and may not watch student-athletes compete or visit their high schools. Coaches may write and telephone student-athletes or their parents during a dead period.
Official Visit vs Unofficial Visit?
What is the difference between an official visit and an unofficial visit?
Any visit to a college campus by a college-bound student-athlete or his or her parents paid for by the college is an official visit. Visits paid for by college-bound student-athletes or their parents are unofficial visits.
During an official visit, the college can pay for transportation to and from the college for the prospect, lodging and three meals per day for both the prospect and the parent or guardian, as well as reasonable entertainment expenses including three tickets to a home sports event.
The only expenses a college-bound student-athlete may receive from a college during an unofficial visit are three tickets to a home sports event. This is a pretty cool benefit for an unofficial visit. Three tickets to a football game is a great way to see the campus in full-swing with all the students in spirit mode.
My son’s first unofficial visit was during a football weekend. The game was at 1:00 pm. We had a meeting with the baseball coaches at 10:00 am along with several other recruits. They gave a tour of the baseball facilities and campus, talked about the baseball program along with their academics, answered all our questions, and then we went onto the football field for pre-game warmup and then took our seats for the start of the game. It was a terrific experience and a fun time to kick back with my son. During these trips, you’ll also start to realize that he’ll soon be out of the house and off to college. It really made me appreciate the time we spent together. Enjoy it.
What is a National Letter of Intent?
A National Letter of Intent is signed by a college-bound student-athlete when the student-athlete agrees to attend a Division I or II college or university. Participating institutions agree to provide financial aid to the student-athlete as long as the student-athlete is admitted to the school and is eligible for financial aid under NCAA rules. Other forms of financial aid do not guarantee the student-athlete financial aid.
The National Letter of Intent is voluntary and not required for a student-athlete to receive financial aid or participate in sports.
Signing a National Letter of Intent ends the recruiting process since participating schools are prohibited from recruiting student-athletes who have already signed letters with other participating schools.
A student-athlete who has signed a National Letter of Intent may request a release from his or her contract with the school. If a student-athlete signs a National Letter of Intent with one school but attends a different school, he or she will lose one full year of eligibility and must complete a full academic year at their new school before being eligible to compete.
UPDATE: on July 15, 2018, the NLI eliminated the split signing periods and elected to go with a new single period with no dead time in the middle. Here is the signing period for baseball student-athletes in their senior year.
November 14, 2018 – August 1, 2019