Zach Silver | Sun Assistant Sports Editor

The Ivy League's proposal is one of several recent student-athlete-centered policies created by the conference.

September 22, 2016

Ivy League Pressures NCAA to Clamp Down on Early Recruiting

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The Ivy League proposed NCAA legislation on Monday that would restrict college recruiters and limit the exposure athletic programs have to high school student-athletes. These efforts seek to allow high school students more flexibility as they navigate the collegiate-level recruiting process.

While the NCAA already forbids official contact between coaches and athletes until the student’s junior year of high school, loopholes have allowed some programs to circumvent these rules. The Ivy League hopes that the NCAA will alter its rules to push back the recruiting timeline.

The proposal — which could potentially be voted on at the NCAA’s winter conference in January — would ban any verbal commitments before a student-athlete’s junior year of high school.

Cornell Athletic Director Andy Noel said that the recruiting rat race accelerates every year, noting that this policy may help slow it down, and eventually reverse the trend of early recruiting.

“The comment you always hear is ‘I don’t like doing it, but I have to because everybody else is,’” Noel said of colleges recruiting athletes well before junior year. “Well if everybody else stops, then we would be O.K.”

Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris expressed concerns about the negative effects of the early process on high school students, many of whom have played just one or two season of high-school-level athletics before receiving an offer to play at the collegiate level.

“The pressure on prospective student-athletes to commit to a specific college earlier and earlier is a national issue,” Harris said in the conference’s press release. “It causes stress for prospects and their families, as they are often asked to make a life-altering decision as high school freshmen or sophomores, and sometimes even before they have started high school.”

This proposal follows a culture of recruiting that has exploded in recent years. National Signing Day now receives minute-by-minute media coverage and some written commitments — a practice that used to involved a simple signature on a form in front of the signer’s coach and parents — can now include professional quality videos.

“It’s gotten to a level where we as a league just had to recommend that there be legislation that reduces this trend that mitigates what’s going on here,” Noel said. “It’s a statement by the Ivy League that we don’t support recruitment so early as is occurring across the country.”

However, Noel did express concern that even if legislation is enacted, there will always be schools that find ways to bend, and occasionally break, the rules. He discussed schools’ use of throwaway phones to sidestep policies that limit contact with recruits via phone call.

“My worry is that any universities that are fully engaged in this process will find ways around the rules,” he said. “However, that worry should not prevent the Ivy League from drawing attention to the issue and working hard to get other conferences to support new legislation.”

While the Ivy League has been criticized for some of its rules — the conference does not offer athletic scholarships and forbids athletes from playing as graduate students — the proposal follows a trend of Ivy League policies that have been regarded as progressive and centered on student-athletes.

Among these policies are a proposal to move up the kickoff to the 40-yard line, a ban of in-season tackling in football practice and limit on weekly athletics time commitment for students. The conference has similarly been on the forefront of concussion research and protocol and hopes that new policies will spur change throughout the NCAA.

“Our goals are to elevate the national conversation about the negative effects of early recruiting, and to challenge the NCAA membership to change the culture of recruiting that forces prospective student-athletes to verbally commit before they are academically, athletically, or emotionally ready to make their college choice,” Harris said.

“I’m certainly proud of the Ivy League for our leadership role but it’s also what we should be doing,” Noel said. “You can’t just give up on some of these issues.”