Tuesday, June 28, 2011

SEC proposes to eliminate the “Saban Rule”


 Via Bryan Fischer on CBSSports.com’s Eye on Recruiting blog.

The SEC is proposing a number of key rule changes to be considered by the NCAA membership. In a letter to Leeland Zeller, NCAA Associate Director of Academic and Membership Affairs, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive outlined a slate of seven modifications to existing by-laws.

Fischer outlines the proposed changes:

    • imageThe SEC endorses the return of text messaging. Currently, coaches cannot text with recruits (at all) but they can email them or send them a Facebook message. The current rules have already caused several coaches to self-report violations after accidentally texting a prospective student-athlete and some coaches privately gripe this is one of the rules they'd like to seen thrown out sooner rather than later. In talking with several administrators from other conferences, there should be plenty of support if the SEC puts forth a proposal to allow texting. The letter does note that while the conference's position is to allow texts, there should be limits in order to not overwhelm prospective recruits.
    • An earlier date for the first off-campus contact by coaches with recruits.
    • Current rules force compliance to monitor follower requests on Twitter and friend requests on Facebook sent to institutional staffers (coaches, administrators, etc.). The SEC says this monitoring "presents a significant compliance challenge" and wants staff members to be able to accept them without having to go through compliance first.
    • The SEC will introduce a proposal for the upcoming NCAA legislative cycle that will permit any coach or staff member to receive phone calls placed by recruits, recruits' parents or recruits' coaches. Phone calls to and from recruits is currently tightly regulated and the SEC proposal would expand contact with recruits as a way to alleviate some compliance concerns associated with monitoring and reporting. Essentially, the SEC is looking to deregulate a lot of the legislation concerning phone calls and texting.
    • The conference would like to redefine the four recruiting periods (Contact, Evaluation, Quiet and Dead) on the calendar into three (Off-campus, on-campus and dead). The SEC wants the off-campus period to be a combination of the current contact and evaluation periods with the rationale that they would eliminate the media from blowing up reports of the so-called "bump" rule being violated. The bump rule, the letter states, "is a source for media reports questioning the integrity of involved coaches, create the expectation that high school coaches arrange incidental contact during an evaluation period, and place college coaches intent on following the rules at a distinct disadvantage." The change is significant and would allow spring football recruiting to take on an even greater importance in the recruiting cycle. Coaches would be able to talk to players freely when they visit campuses in the spring and it wouldn't be all that surprising to see the number of verbal commitments to skyrocket as recruits commit when a coach comes to visit.
    • Although the letter states the conference supports earlier official visits - especially taking visits during the summer - they do not propose a specific date the visits should start because "no clear consensus exists around the date that might be established." Slive notes that there is some concern that summer official visits would allow some schools to pay for recruits to come to campus and then allow them to participate in their summer camp at the same time, thus covering travel costs for recruits to camps where players would be evaluated.
    • It has been previously discussed, but the SEC will submit an NCAA-wide proposal that bans 7-on-7 and other so-called "non-scholastic" events from college campuses. The conference also will submit a proposal that bans coaches from involvement in local sports clubs.

The “bump rule,” aka the “Saban Rule,” was just another onerous attempt to remove the advantage of hard working recruiters like Nick Saban. Coaches that would rather be duck hunting, playing golf or chasing skirts didn’t cotton too well to Coach Saban outworking them by visiting the high schools of targeted recruits and chatting with them.

However, the law of unintended consequences has come back to bite the programs Saban was devouring on the recruiting trail with or without such asinine rules. Since the rule was passed and began being enforced, three of the SEC schools have replaced coaches with energetic recruiters, who are now being hampered by the same rule that (at least two of) their predecessors championed so loudly.

Steve Spurrier won’t like it, but Tommy Tuberville and Phil Fulmer aren’t around to complain anymore.  Let’s hope the rule change gets passed by the NCAA membership, so that Saban and other hardworking recruiters in the SEC reap the rewards of their labors. 

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