NCAA 'suspends' two most controversial recruiting proposals

semerson@macon.comMarch 7, 2013 

ATHENS - Mark Richt said last week he had a "sneaky suspicion" that the NCAA's most controversial recruiting deregulation rules would be killed. Richt's suspicion appears on the way to being correct.

The NCAA announced on Thursday that two proposals set to go into effect in August are being "suspended" pending further review in May. That includes:

- A proposal that would have allowed non-coaching personnel to participate in recruiting. Currently the only people associated with a program who are allowed to recruit are the head coach and assistant coaches. That definition would have been expanded to include basically anybody.

- An elimination of the restrictions on recruiting mailers that could be sent.

“The working group has taken seriously its commitment to listen and respond to the membership throughout this process,” Tulsa president Steadman Upham, co-chair of the Rules Working Group, said in a release on its web site. “We understand that reasonable minds differ on some of these challenging issues, and we hope that further discussion will benefit our student-athletes and theirinstitutions. We believe that, with the help of the membership, we can reach an appropriate outcome.”

Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity had been among the high-major school officials voicing opposition to the proposals. So was his head men's basketball coach, Mark Fox, while Richt had declined to comment because he expected it to be moot.

That appears likely now. The NCAA said both issues would continued to be studied, but suspending the two proposals - which were among 25 passed in January - is a sign that support for them is low.

Richt was asked Thursday if this would forestall hiring any additional staff.

"We've gotta do what we think is in the best interests of Georgia, within reason," Richt said. "We want to make sure everybody's got a job to do. If you hire a lot of people and then the legislation changes, then all of a sudden you've got a lot of people hanging around the office that you're not sure what to do with them. I don't know how good that it is.

"But I think Georgia's gonna do what we need to do to compete at this level."

McGarity had expressed concern that allowing non-coaches to recruit would lead to an arms race, with schools and teams feeling the need to hire people left and right who would just recruit. It would also allow current team personnel who are non-coaches to recruit.

“We have the resources, to a certain level,” McGarity said recently. “But what level is that? The rule would let each institution make that decision. But for the good of the game, if you take a step back, our institution, and what’s for the best for college athletics in general, then basically with the approval of this legislation you would be furthering the separation of the haves and haves not. And right now you would say there are probably 22 haves, and the rest of the programs in the country operate in the red already. I don’t think that’s good for the whole.”

"I could hire you guys (the media) and say: Hey, we're gonna pay you money to contact recruits and produce material for us, and you don't even have to open the NCAA rulebook," Fox said last month. "We've still gotta have some parameters around it. ... Everyone favored (some) de-regulation, but if we don't keep some parameters, then you've opened the floodgates for some major, major spending."

The concern about mailers was that teams would run up bills preparing so-called fat-heads and life-sized cut-outs of recruits.

"When they de-regulate the amount of communication and mail and contact that you can have with prospective student-athletes, well your workload just multiplied thousands of percent. Because we're all gonna do that," Fox said. "So if there's that much more work to be possible to be done, then you're gonna want to have more manpower to do it. There's serious concern where that would go."

However, teams would still be able to send an unlimited amount of text messages and other messages to recruits. That proposal was not suspended, though it is still part of the over-ride process, which ends later this month.

Follow Seth Emerson at @sethemerson.

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