NCAA Division I volleyball coaches have a new set of recruiting rules and many of them are not sure what to make of it.
“The fear of the unknown,” Arkansas State coach Dave Rehr said.
While some of the NCAA coaches we talked to Friday at the Lone Star Classic in Dallas gave the changes a thumbs up, many said the new rules will take some time to decipher.
The NCAA announced Thursday that prospects in sports other than football and basketball can now make official visits starting September 1 of their junior years. There are other changes, too, from when coaches and prospects can communicate to limitations on campus tours while attending summer camps.
“As long as we’re all under the same rules it will all eventually work out,” NC State associate head coach Kevin Maureen Campbell said. “I think the adjustment period is going to be hard for everybody because of the expectations of the younger classes right now.
“They’re used to making decisions early. Now it’s the education of the club coaches and the current young players that, hey, it’s OK to slow down, it’s OK to take your time, and if that education happens I think we’re in good shape.
“Because none of us want to be recruiting freshmen in high school. But that adjustment period is going be sticky.”
In many ways because, in fact, so many programs recruit freshmen in high school.
“It’s going to be a change for everyone and we’re going to have to learn how to adapt to this,” Cal Poly assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Jason Borchin said.
“Not being able to get kids on campus early on is going to be tricky. Hopefully it will be better for mid-majors and we have a shot at some of these kids who commit when they’re eighth- and ninth-graders. Hopefully they can go through the recruiting process a little bit more mature and they can choose schools for the right reasons, not just the wow factor right away.”
Most larger Division I programs, of course, recruit many years out. There are some in the volleyball world who think that contributes to so many players ultimately transferring. In the NCAA news release, it said, “The new recruiting model allows potential student-athletes more time to make thoughtful decisions about their next steps after high school. The shift was supported by the national Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.”
Perhaps, but as Colorado coach Jesse Mahoney said, “Our ’21 recruits, we can’t talk to face-to-face for two more years, which seems odd.
“If the idea is to slow things down, that might happen, but if the idea is to create a better meeting of the minds, I’m not sure that’s going to happen because you’re still going to have kids commit early with less information and I think that’s unfortunate.”
Or, as one coach at the tournament cracked, “I’m on my way to watch all the kids I’m not gonna get to know for two more years.”
What’s more, when a prospect makes an unofficial visit before their junior years, coaches can’t meet with them and give them tours and the like.
“The budgetary implications of opening up official visits into the junior year could affect schools dramatically,” Texas-Arlington coach JT Wenger said. “Most schools are having official visits for their committed athletes, whereas now juniors will be able to take official visits before they’re committed, which means they’re going to use like all five of their visits as opposed to just using one. So what was being paid by parents, the unofficial visits, will now be paid by the schools.
“And that affects different schools differently. If you’re in a big metropolitan that won’t be as big of an issue, because you can have a lot of local visits. But if you’re in a school that’s far from an airport or far from a metro area, it can be a major ordeal to bring more people to campus and pay for it.”
Lisa Siefert coaches at SMU, in the heart of the volleyball-rich Dallas Metroplex.
“The piece that I have thought about a long time is that I do think the official visit needs to move up, that we need to be able to pay for kids to come on their visits and that will make it more fair for everyone,” Seifert said.
“But I was a little disappointed with the timing of it. We’re in the heat of the 2020 class and the legislation passed on the 19th (Thursday) and it goes into effect on the 25th. So those kids who are planning visits and maybe paid for tickets, that wasn’t a consideration, apparently. I’m OK with it being implemented, but I would have liked to have seen a grace period.”
New Memphis coach Sean Burdette agreed.
“It changes a lot of things in terms of players who have had visits set up and have arranged schedules and with the rule being effective immediately that’s thrown a little bit of a wrench into the recruiting process,” Burdette said.
“There are a lot of loopholes still and there are certainly a lot of way people are going to find to get around the rules and I don’t think there was necessarily a ton of forethought about getting out ahead of this and figuring out the ramifications.”
Another coach said simply, “we raced to get some kids on campus right away to make their visits while they still could.”
That same coach, who asked to remain anonymous, said what many other coaches did, that they simply won’t get to know recruits and their families as well as they should before the players enroll.
That’s because the legislation also included that, “Additionally, athletics departments can’t participate in a recruit’s unofficial visit until Sept. 1 of the recruit’s junior year in high school, and recruiting conversations during a school’s camp or clinic can’t happen before Sept. 1 of the junior year. Both rules apply to all sports but football and basketball, which have their own rules.”
Accordingly, new Fordham coach Ian Choi said schools like his have to be more selective with official visits, “but at the same time we have to see what the cultural norms of recruiting become. Do the limitless budget schools, do they just start offering official visits for virtually everyone? And if so, then we have to respond as a mid-major.
“It’s a little bit of figuring out what the programs with money are doing and responding to that.”
No matter what, things will change.
“It used to be that you used official visits to bring your team (and the incoming class) together,” Arkansas State’s Rehr said. “They would go together to a football game and spend time together and now those same visits won’t happen any more. They will have taken them at separate times.”