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New NCAA recruiting rules should have a positive impact on student-athletes

Local expert sees it a good thing

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Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham walks the field as players stretch before the game against the California Golden Bears at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — As ripple effects of the virtual complete shutdown of sports because of the coronavirus scare continue to be felt, the NCAA on Friday released statements addressing recruiting and potential eligibility relief for athletes whose seasons were canceled prematurely.

The NCAA banned in-person recruiting for Division I coaches and advised schools to suspend any official and unofficial visits until at least April 15.

The Division I Council Coordination Committee will evaluate things at that point to see if the ban can be lifted or should continue. Telephone calls and written correspondence are allowed during what the NCAA is calling a “dead period.”

Even under normal circumstances, there are numerous “dead periods” throughout the year, although they occur at different times for different sports.

Recruiting expert Dan Sorensen, publisher of UteZone.com, considers it a good thing in light of coronavirus concerns. The country is unchartered waters in terms of this kind of event happening in this country, he added, and it’s smart to be cautious and set clear guidelines and communicate them.

What’s really important, Sorensen emphasized, is the health and safety of the people involved — keeping that as a priority over winning and competition. That can be the focus when it matters.

“So really when you look at things in context, it makes sense that the NCAA made this decision for a couple of different reasons,” Sorensen said while discussing college football in particular. “No. 1 is the spring period, especially spring practice, has become an increasingly important time for colleges, in their recruiting efforts.”

Sorensen noted that they’re able to get kids on campus, see how the team interacts and how they practice. It also allows them to see what the offense and defense looks like from a schematic standpoint — giving them a better standpoint.

“And there’s generally a lot of energy around the program during these times of the year,” Sorensen explained. “So the NCAA, in previous years, had loosened up restrictions in what they could do with recruits during these times and when they brought them in.”

Now, with the entire country basically shutting things down in one form or another because of the coronavirus, Sorensen said it makes sense that they’re trying to put everybody on a level playing field. 

“So they’re ensuring that the health and safety of the coaches and the student-athletes and the prospective student-athletes and their families are being taken into account before whatever consequences happen from a recruiting standpoint,” Sorensen continued. “So I think at this point this is very much the NCAA looking to put everybody on common ground and show a little bit of leadership, so that there aren’t gray areas and you don’t have people that are trying to skirt those gray areas and take unnecessary risks in the pursuit of a student-athlete.”

Sorensen noted that the difference between a “quiet period” and a “dead period” is coaches cannot have face-to-face contact with a prospective student-athlete or their parents. Coaches are also not allowed to visit high schools during dead periods, nor are they allowed to watch student-athletes compete.

However, they’re still able to text and speak to them on the phone.

Eliminating the face-to-face contact, though, is a positive in Sorensen’s opinion.

“Given what’s going on in the country right now and what we anticipate over the next few weeks, that makes a lot of sense to be able to limit the face-to-face contact, to be able to limit the traveling to make that happen,” Sorensen said.

Additionally, the NCAA stated that “eligibility relief is appropriate for all Division I student-athletes who participated in spring sports,” with details about specifics to be finalized at a later time.

On Thursday as all NCAA spring championships were canceled, and a number of conferences and schools canceled all athletic competition, many observed how difficult it would be, especially for seniors, to not be able to compete.

That said, much of the talk surrounding seniors’ careers ending prematurely centered around the upcoming college basketball tournaments, which are considered winter events, and no statement has been given concerning whether or not those athletes will be under consideration for eligibility relief.