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Thursday, February 7, 2013
New recruiting rules worry B1G coaches

By Brian Bennett

Now that signing day is over, coaches can put their full focus on recruiting the 2014 class. And they will soon be doing so with far fewer restrictions.

The NCAA board of directors approved a proposal last month that would allow coaches to contact recruits as much as they wanted through text messaging and social media, and schools would have no limits on the amount of printed materials they could mail to prospects. Coaches could also begin contacting prospects during the summer of their sophomore years. The changes are set to become bylaws on Aug. 1.

Coaches are surely celebrating this de-regulation, right? Think again. Several Big Ten coaches expressed serious concerns about what the new measures would mean for recruits -- and for themselves.

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer was the most outspoken critic of the new rules on Wednesday, telling the media that he was writing a letter to "all the coaches in America" to argue against the proposal.

"Could you imagine what's going to be rolling into kids' driveways?" Meyer said. "Fatheads and magnets -- it's nonsense. ... I don't agree with that at all."

Michigan coach Brady Hoke called the rules "a big-time mistake," while Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini said the NCAA is "going down a gravel road."

“First and foremost, it is going to affect the kids in high school," Pelini told reporters Wednesday. "They are going to be concentrating on things they shouldn’t be concentrating on. That is academics, being the best football player they can be, that’s developing as a young man and enjoying his high school career.

"The more time a kid is sitting on his phone texting and on the telephone and all the other things, that is [doing] the kids, the high schools and high school coaches a disservice."

Ironically, the coaches criticizing these changes could be the ones who benefit from it the most. It stands to reason that schools from super-rich conferences like the Big Ten have more money to spend on mailings and their recruiting budgets, thus they'd have a leg up in wooing prospects. But Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said he doesn't want to see college football become like Major League Baseball, where the richest teams like the New York Yankees often have an unfair advantage.

"It's almost like maybe we're trying to force that," Ferentz said.

Several coaches said they were in the process of reviewing the new rules and deciding how to implement them into their recruiting plan. They also plan to talk about it as a group when the league coaches and AD meet this weekend at Big Ten headquarters.

"Every day, we spend part of the day on recruiting," Penn State coach Bill O'Brien said. "How are we going to handle unlimited text messaging, unlimited visits to schools, whatever it may be? We're never going to join the ranks of the wild, wild west, I can promise you that.

"We're going to do things the right way at Penn State and still try to go out there and try to find Penn State guys. So that's not going to change. Maybe some of the ways we go about doing it have to change because of the less rules."

One of the biggest concerns for coaches will be how much more time they now have to spend on texting and mailing recruits. If they're not inundating a prospect with tweets and letters, maybe a rival recruiter is.

“You only have so many hours in a day," Pelini said. "You are going to have to change some things in your staff and how you go about things to give yourself the best opportunity to obviously keep up with the Joneses."

Change is definitely coming to recruiting, even if it's the kind of change Big Ten coaches don't really want.