NCAA phone rules proposal defeated

July, 18, 2011
7/18/11
11:13
AM ET
On Thursday, the NCAA Division I Legislative Council took a vote on Proposal 2010-30. If passed, the proposal would have made email and phone correspondence dates -- the dates institutions can begin sending messages to recruits -- uniform. That's it? That's it. Innocuous enough, right?

Apparently not. On Thursday, the proposal -- which had been approved at a session in April -- was voted into oblivion. Of the 29 conferences present for the conference call, 15 voted to defeat the measure, one more than the 14 who voted to allow it. (Math!) The NCAA received more than 100 requests for an override vote on the matter, as many schools believed the measure would have given schools with more resources and larger staffs an inherent advantage in recruiting. And so -- poof! -- a small bit of phone-related NCAA reform was defeated.

The rule doesn't matter all that much. Again, it's a pretty tiny rule. What does matter, however, is what this process says about the NCAA's other communications-related deregulation. Last week, the NCAA announced a proposal that would "eliminate restrictions on the number and frequency of phone calls to recruits." In 2011, high school kids are more than capable of managing their incoming calls, texts, and emails, and because smartphones are so ubiquitous, it's just as easy for a coach to email a recruit and tell him to call, rather than having to make the call himself. There are dozens of ways to communicate with the youngsters these days. Phone calls are just so passÚ.

This is a smart, common-sense reform, one that simplifies the process for compliance departments, coaches and recruits alike while also moving the NCAA's communications rules out of an outdated, bygone era. And, hey, guess what? Based on last week's vote, that legislation looks less likely than ever. Bylaw Blog's John Infante explains:
Instead we’ll keep the current set of rules. And more importantly, a bigger proposal coming this year that removes limits on the frequency of calls now looks much less likely to pass. That proposal will cut down dramatically on monitoring costs since schools would only need to check that coaches are not calling prospects too early. Proactive monitoring systems would also become much more affordable and accessible for smaller schools.

[...] There’s talk now that just about every rule is becoming untenable. Amateurism, initial eligibility, recruiting regulations, financial aid limits, and staff limitations have come under fire. It’s likely only a matter of time before the concept of eligibility itself is challenged. If we’re going to declare rules failed though, we should start with the little ones that take a lot of time and effort first, rather than jumping straight to core values.

As John writes, the value of the phone rules proposals go far beyond phones and text messages and Facebook accounts and Twitter. Indeed, they're about the state of the modern NCAA, an organization that finds itself under fire from all corners and facing questions about its basic ethics and beliefs. These phone rules -- especially the now-defeated proposal to universalize contact dates -- would have made the NCAA rulebook a slightly less tangled place. They might have even been some small first step in deregulating an over-regulated, marginal area of the amateur athletics, in the NCAA's proving to itself that reform of this type is not only possible but positive.

Instead, the status quo won again, and it looks more likely than ever to prevail in the future. Sigh. Same as it ever was.

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