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Wednesday, April 16, 2014
NCAA reverses mid-year enrollee ruling

By Mitch Sherman

The NCAA has gone back to the drawing board over the rules that govern mid-year enrolling football prospects eligible for financial aid agreements on and after Aug. 1 of their senior years.

The Division I Legislative Council this week rescinded a December ruling that allowed only the first school to sign a prospect to an agreement to operate under relaxed recruiting restrictions.

The initial interpretation, issued last October by the NCAA’s academic and membership affairs staff, permitted schools that signed prospects to agreements to comment publicly about the recruits and ignore restrictions that limit contact outside of a dead period.

As an unintended consequence, several prospects in the Class of 2014 signed agreements with multiple programs, leading to the December action after an appeal of the original interpretation by the Southeastern Conference.

Many schools, according to the NCAA, then voiced concerns that they were not aware when prospects sign agreements with multiple schools and in what order, potentially leading to inadvertent violations.

As a result, the decision this week states if a school signs a prospect to an agreement and takes advantage of the relaxed restrictions, it will be in violation, retroactively, of NCAA rules if the prospect does not enroll at the school.

Penalties would be determined by the NCAA enforcement staff, based on the circumstances and significance.

Mid-year enrolling prospects remain eligible to sign agreements – which are binding for the school but not the recruit -- with multiple programs.

The Legislative Council also ruled this week that college programs must ensure that prospects are enrolled in the high school coursework necessary to graduate at midyear before offering the financial aid agreements.

The new ruling could discourage programs from commenting publicly on a signed mid-year prospect out of concern that if the recruit changes his mind, the school will have unwittingly committed an NCAA violation.