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Monday, February 11, 2013
B1G asks NCAA to table new recruiting rules

By Brian Bennett

As we told you last week, many Big Ten coaches have serious concerns about the new NCAA recruiting rules which would allow virtually unlimited contact and mailings to high school prospects, among other changes.

Now we know it's not just the coaches. It's the league as a whole that doesn't like the prospect of these changes.

Pat Fitzgerald
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald has a lot of returning talent, but faces a difficult 2013 schedule.
On Monday, after league coaches and athletic directors met at conference headquarters in Park Ridge, Ill., the Big Ten issued a statement asking for a timeout on those NCAA proposals. The league says the new rules -- which would allow coaches to contact recruits via text message and social media as much as their hearts desire and let schools inundate prospects with an unchecked flood of mailings -- at least need more time to be studied before they go into effect this summer.

“I’m not necessarily so sure it’s the very specifics, as most of it is we’d like to have an opportunity to have dialogue to discuss the impact and have sufficient time and be able to look at the consequences," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald told ESPN.com.

The NCAA wants to simplify its unwieldy rule book and get out of the business of trying to enforce things like how many recruiting calls a coach makes, which is pretty much impossible to monitor. The idea is to de-regulate the minor things and focus on the serious offenses, which is an understandable goal even if the NCAA can't really be trusted to dole out justice on even the most blatant cheaters.

But every change has consequences, and there are some major unintended problems that could result from these new proposed rules. Coaches will have to spend far more time making sure they're sending as many tweets and Facebook posts to prospects as their rival recruiters. Recruiting budgets will soar into the stratosphere. And has anyone actually asked high school kids if they want their phones jammed by dozens of text messages from courting coaches or have their mailmen drop off 10 pounds of recruiting brochures every business day? (At least they won't have to worry about Saturdays anymore, unless schools use UPS or FedEx).

The Big Ten will predictably get roasted for raising these objections. Critics will say the league is once again coming across as stodgy and conservative, and that it's another sign that the conference doesn't have the stomach to wade through the dirty waters of recruiting like the SEC. Get with the times, they'll say, or get left (farther) behind.

But note that the Big Ten hasn't asked for the repeal of these rules, but merely for the NCAA to table the measures until more thought can be put into them. What's wrong with that? Or better put, what's the rush to implement these rules, especially when, as Fitzgerald noted, a working group of coaches could work closely with the NCAA to fully review them?

We'll see if the Big Ten's request has any impact. But the only way to stop this train is by getting other leagues to help stop it in its tracks.