The Ivy League announced a set of proposals on Tuesday designed to limit the early recruitment of athletes for Division I college sports.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s member institutions must “change the culture of recruiting that forces prospective student-athletes to commit earlier and earlier,” the fancypants athletic conference urged in a statement obtained by Inside Higher Ed.
The series of rules changes submitted by the Ivy League would ban Division I coaches from verbally offering scholarships to players until Sept. 1 of their junior years of high school. The changes would further prevent coaches from having any telephone contact with students until they are juniors, and ban coaches from recruiting prospective players at clinics or camps until they are juniors.
Current NCAA rules differ by sport but, in general, they have loopholes allowing younger student-athletes to contact coaches and to go on campus visits as long as the schools aren’t paying.
“We’re trying to close those loopholes,” Ivy League executive director Robin Harris said, according to Inside Higher Ed. “The current culture is putting more and more pressure on prospective athletes to commit, because they’re talking to coaches and making unofficial visits earlier and earlier. You think about freshmen and sophomores and how much they still have to grow, physically, athletically, academically, emotionally, and our concern is that prospects are making decisions they come to regret.”
A 2014 analysis by The New York Times and the National Collegiate Scouting Association found that women’s soccer coaches and women’s lacrosse coaches are the worst offenders when it comes to recruiting middle school kids and fresh-faced high schoolers. Up to 25 percent of Division I women’s soccer players and possibly over a third of women’s lacrosse players give coaches commitments before they are juniors.
Already this year, an eighth-grade girl and an eighth-grade boy have promised to sworn to enroll at Syracuse University and Pennsylvania State University, respectively, to play lacrosse.
“The accelerated recruiting timeline has far-reaching effects,” according to former Georgetown women’s lacrosse coach Kim Simons Tortolani. The effects include “forcing early specialization in one sport,” purposefully flunking an academic year “in hopes of gaining an athletic advantage” and “promoting participation on club and travel teams at a younger age.”
Absurdly early recruitment is a problem in football and men’s basketball as well. Already this year, for example, an eighth-grade linebacker has received recruiting offers from the University at Alabama, Iowa State University, Michigan State University, North Carolina State University and West Virginia University.
“The pressure coaches exert on young students to make life-changing decisions in haste erodes their ability to make the right choice, and is therefore in direct conflict with the purpose and process of higher education,” Harvard University athletics director Bob Scalise said last year, according to Inside Higher Ed.
Over 60 percent of America’s little kids begin specializing in a single sport by the age of 12, in part because they hope to get a college scholarship, a 2015 NCAA study found.
About a third of all NCAA athletes transfer schools at some point in their collegiate careers.
The eight schools in the Ivy League do not appear to recruit middle school athletes or athletes who are not already juniors in high school.
The NCAA’s member institutions could consider the prestigious conference’s rules changes as early as January, at an annual meeting.