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January 15, 2013
It's not a world in which Joe Mathis wishes to live.
The good news is he'll never have to. The four-star defensive end recently closed the book on his recruitment. For him, the process is over. He's a Washington Husky.
Proposed recruiting rule changes won't affect him in the slightest. He is, however, worried about the next generation of high school stars. Mathis' message to those guys is simple:
Good luck, suckers.
"My little cousin is, like, the next big thing," Mathis said. "I feel bad for him. I'm going to have to try to help him out to get through it. Thank God I won't have to deal with it."
Mathis' concern centers on proposed rule changes to be voted on at this week's NCAA convention that will allow college coaches to start contacting players earlier and often. There's a clause that lifts all limitations on written mail (apparently in an effort to benefit schools with massive recruiting budgets) and one that repeals the in-place text message ban.
Forget restrictions on private messages via social networking sites. There's a rule change on the table that will zap those, too. The so-called "baton rule," limiting the number of coaches from each program who can be on the road simultaneously, is on the chopping block as well.
Also proposed is a contact start date of July 1 before a player's junior season. And while dead periods and quiet periods will remain on the calendar, other restrictions on phone calls might be lifted.
During a contact period, human decency will be the only thing keeping coaches from calling every hour on the hour. But if you're not calling enough, your rival probably is.
Who can risk a blue-chip prospect seeing you as uninterested when livelihoods are at stake? The ramifications aren't hard to spot.
Research project? Junior prom? Buck up, kiddo. Who needs that stuff in 2013? Son, the entire SEC and half of the Big 12 is on the phone, and it's urgent. They'd like to speak with you now ... and tomorrow ... and the day after that. Check your Twitter DMs, too. You have 76 new messages.
Forget unregulated mail and unregulated phone calls. Somebody at the NCAA needs an unregulated slap in the mouth.
"Wow, man, that's going to be kind of difficult on players," Mathis said. "Some kids have to do a lot of work on grades and stuff. I mean, it's already crazy. Before I cut down to a top 10, my phone used to ring about 30 times a day. That's crazy, and that's with the old rules. You're going to see a lot of kids committing quick just to make it stop."
Nobody is anti-change. Change is necessary for progress. But in this case, it certainly doesn't help the players -- not on the whole, anyway. As for college coaches, they aren't keen on this stuff, either.
"I think our job is hard enough as it is," said one BCS-level assistant, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "Now we're going to be on the road and on the phone even more. You have to be kidding me. That would make me consider not doing this. Makes the NFL look even better. We're going back to the Southwest Conference days. I don't see what the benefit is of doing this."
Things are rarely all bad, and the rule tweaks are no exception. There are positives in the legislation. You just need a fine-toothed comb to find them. An earlier start date will allow players to better know the coaches to whom they are committing. There's also nothing negative about the clause that will allow newly signed prospects to enjoy all the benefits of an on-campus student-athlete.
That said ...
"It's doing more harm than good," Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said. "The idea that the NCAA is supposed to keep in mind most is to make things easy on the kids. Establishing a relationship with a kid earlier in the process, I'm all for that. The things that concern me the most are the unlimited text messages and the unlimited mailing and the calls. It's really going to be a lot on the kids and a lot on the assistant coaches. Coaches can essentially throw away any sort of social life that they ever wanted to have."
The NCAA, of course, will reap the biggest reward. The rules will make things easier in the Indianapolis offices. There will be fewer restrictions to monitor and fewer slaps on the wrist to dole out.
That's good for them. It will clear up some time for somebody in an office to check his email or explore Facebook's "poke" feature. Problem is, the free time will come at the expense of high school players and the coaches in charge of recruiting them. Remember those guys? The guys that nobody seemed to ask?
Maybe someone should do that now. You know, before they get too burned out and bogged down to respond.
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