- Mitch Sherman, ESPN Staff Writer
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Just as football prospects in the Class of 2014 were beginning to understand the ramifications of recruiting legislation passed in January, the NCAA is suddenly retreating like the Confederate army out of Gettysburg.
Much intrigue has followed the Jan. 19 vote by the Division I Board of Directors to adopt seismic changes that essentially throw out the rulebook as it applies to regulation in recruiting.
Unlimited contact from college coaches to prospects? Unregulated staff sizes with no checks on the recruiting materials mailed to prospects?
Sure, why not?
Well, the NCAA membership has spoken. And it has explained why not -- why it's not a good idea to commence on Aug. 1 with a new arms race in college football and overwhelm kids with phone calls and text messages.
Word has gotten around among recruits, too.
"We all think we're grown [men], but we're still kids," ESPN Watch List athlete Adoree' Jackson of Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra told RecruitingNation's Brandon Oliver on Sunday at the Nike Football Training Camp in Los Angeles. "It's hard enough to balance everything already."
Watch List linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams (Ellenwood, Ga./Cedar Grove), offered by the likes of Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia and USC, said he spoke recently with UGA coach Mark Richt about the changes and that Richt is not a fan.
"The crazy thing is the nonstop text messages they can send you any time of the day," Allen-Williams told RN reporter Kipp Adams on Sunday at the VTOSports Prep 100 in Georgia. "That is going to blow a lot of phones up."
The NCAA has taken notice of the widespread criticism of its attempt at deregulation. Last week, the NCAA's Rules Working Group -- the same body that submitted the proposals -- recommended that the board, at its May 2 meeting in Indianapolis, suspend two of the rules and conduct a review before possible amendments.
One of the impacted rules would loosen the definition of a recruiting coordinator and open the floodgates for programs to hire scouting staffs. The other would deregulate material mailed to recruits. In other words, your local blue-chip QB could receive a diamond-encrusted media guide in the mail, though he still couldn't accept a turkey sandwich from the training table while on an unofficial recruiting visit.
It was, for sure, a pre-emptive act by the NCAA, what with the March 20 deadline nearing for the submission by schools of override requests. If 75 requests are received from the ranks of all Division I on a specific rule, a review is required. If the NCAA receives 125 requests, the legislation is put to a vote of membership.
The Rules Working Group did not recommend suspension of Proposal 13-3, which calls for the removal of limitations on all electronic communication from coaches to recruits. That proposal is, interestingly, the new rule met with the most dread by prospects.
"It's tough, man," Jackson said. "You have to feel good about the fact that they want you. It's a blessing to have an opportunity to get an education and play football, but it can be overwhelming. I know a lot of kids that have two phones and some of them can't afford them."
Running back Demario Richard of Palmdale (Calif.) High said he plans, begrudgingly, to get a second phone only for recruiting purposes.
"If my [second] phone is turned on, then they can get a hold of me," Richard said. "If it's not on, then it means I can't talk to them at that time. ... I think it would be real annoying after a little while."
The NCAA, in announcing last week that the Rules Working Group would continue to support 13-3, noted that coaches are currently allowed to make unlimited phone calls to prospects during the contact period that covers most of December and January.
Additionally, men's basketball has operated without restrictions on recruiting contact for nearly a year. All feedback has been positive, the NCAA said.
It also said the Rules Working Group continues to believe that overcommunication with recruits will prove ineffective. Increasingly tech-savvy prospects are advised to inform coaches of how best to communicate with them and when to make contact.
That's where the NCAA is likely dreaming.
If you're Allen-Williams, with more elite offers than many entire high school teams, fine. But imagine a prospect hungry for a scholarship from his favorite school -- or any offer, period -- asking the all-powerful recruiters to respect his privacy and call only during certain hours.
"We plan on saying no Sunday calls from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.," Allen-Williams said. "That is family time. Also, the contact period for me would end at 11 p.m."
Most recruits would take a call at 2 a.m. if it meant talking to a coach from Ohio State or Oregon. And what about those text messages that were banned in 2007? Recruits were texting with coaches instead of listening in class. Who's going to do the right thing next fall and turn off his phone -- the kid or the coach?
"I don't want to have my entire life taken away by phone calls and messages," Jackson said.
No, 13-3 doesn't come with the potential mess caused by the hiring of a scouting department or the distribution of dazzling brochures, posters and guides.
But like the other rules, it's enough of a game-changer to warrant a second look. Results next week at the override-request deadline will tell us if college programs truly agree with the prospects they so covet on this issue.
Two proposals by the NCAA that will essentially change recruiting as we know it are being tabled for review in May, but based on what is being heard from recruits, it should really take a look at another proposal that is still being supported.