Division I board to consider text message ban
INDIANAPOLIS -- Coaches have spent the last several years upgrading their gadgets and learning the new tricks of recruiting. Now it may be time to turn back the clock.
The NCAA Division I management council has recommended a ban on all electronically transmitted correspondence, including text messages, between coaches and recruits. E-mails and faxes would be exempt from the new rule but would be limited by current NCAA guidelines.
Unlike restrictions on phone calls and in-person visits, there are no coach limits on text messaging.
The Board of Directors must still pass the legislation, and if approved at its April 26 meeting, the ban would take effect in August. Typically, the board passes such recommendations, but if it's delayed or rejected, coaches would revert to their previous policy of no limits.
"I think student-athletes wanted to see this eliminated for their own sanity," said Kate Hickey, the management council's chairwoman whose term is about to expire. "And to get rid of some of these bills."
The Student-Athlete Advisory Council, which represents college athletes, complained during this week's meetings that the number of text messages had become intrusive and costly.
Hickey, an associate athletic director at Rutgers, expects the proposal to pass next week.
"I think it all depends on whether there's communication between coaches and athletic directors and then, ultimately, the board members over the next week," she said. "I think some of the coaches on our staff are going to say 'Great, we can continue to recruit the way we always have.' Others, I think, will say 'I can't believe this.' "
For some coaches, the changes could become problematic.
Before this week's vote, Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating, a former UCLA assistant, said coaches need to contact recruits through modern means, the same way teenagers often chat with friends and family, to build relationships.
The NCAA was concerned that unlimited text messages created a loophole that permitted coaches to send a message asking recruits to call them -- calls that would violate NCAA rules if the coach made the call.
Dealing with the rapid technological advances has become tricky for the NCAA. Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel has seen it all before.
"I've gone through the evolution of stopping at the payphones in the cold and freezing to death [while] calling recruits, to cell phones, to word processors -- you used to hand write everything you did," he said. "Obviously, the text was the next thing. E-mail became a part of the world, you know, I think you're used to change and you're used to change being legislated as to how it affects things. So I'll be anxious to see how this is taken care of."
Because it normally takes at least one year to pass a rule, new features and devices sometimes appear in the marketplace faster than the NCAA can regulate. So the management council took the unconventional route by passing a broader measure over its usually more specific ones.
"The reality is that it does keep us a little bit ahead of the curve, for now," Hickey said.
The all-or-nothing approach wasn't the only one under initial consideration. The Ivy League made two proposals: One that would have limited text messaging and another that called for an outright ban. The first measure failed in January.
Implementing the ban could cause other problems. Hickey anticipates some coaches will cry foul and acknowledges enforcement could be the next great challenge.
"I think it will be as difficult as any other rule we have where there's a limited ability to track it," she said. "It's as difficult as the phone call rule and the recruiting days rule. The key with rules like this is education and trust, and not only educating the coaches but the student-athletes, scholastic coaches and parents."
While the text messaging ban was this week's hot topic, it wasn't the only major change passed by Hickey's committee.
It also passed a proposal that would allow college athletes to try out for professional teams while still taking classes. The current rules prohibit student-athletes from trying out while still enrolled in school. The new measure would allow athletes to receive money from pro teams to make a 48-hour trip. Or they could also pay the bill themselves and not be bound by the time limit.
The stipulation: An athlete could not miss classes for the tryout.
"We're saying we can have a little bit of a compromise," Hickey said. "You don't have to drop out of school just to try out. You could stay in school and continue to be a student."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press