Is text messaging high school prospects intrusive?

Under NCAA rules, text messages to recruits are considered to be more like letters than phone calls. That is, coaches can send unlimited messages to high school seniors they are trying to recruit, and some messages to juniors. And they can respond to any message from a recruit at any time. According to an ESPN report, that is creating abuses. “The concern is about the intrusiveness to the prospect,” ACC associate commissioner Shane Lyons told the network. “You know, the timing. Some of these e-mails, or text messages, are being sent during academic class time, during the school day hours.” Lyons chairs the NCAA’s Recruiting Committee on Academics, Eligibility, and Compliance, a group charged with reviewing recruiting regulations.

But the NCAA may have bigger concerns than the excessive number of text messages some prospects are receiving on a daily basis. Under NCAA rules, college coaches cannot initiate contact of any kind with high school freshmen and sophomores, and are extremely limited in the amount of times they can phone high school players before their senior season. But under the current regulations, text messaging is not considered a phone call.

Coaches can text message juniors as many times as they want. ESPN also found evidence of coaches using text messages as a loophole to get around the restrictions on calling recruits. Coaches are essentially using text messages to lure recruits into calling them. While coaches are extremely limited in the amount of times they can call high school recruits there’s no limit to the number of times high school recruits can phone college coaches.

Lyons said the NCAA must find a delicate balance between limiting intrusive contact and allowing coaches to pursue their top recruits. “What is too much? What’s not enough?” Lyons said. “We want to give our coaches the opportunity to recruit the right type of athlete for their program, for that institution, allow them to get to know the individual, not only as an athlete but as a person. But there’s a balance there as well.”

An NCAA subcommittee is scheduled to meet June 13-14 in Indianapolis where it will review feedback on the topic from conferences and coaches associations. By the end of the meeting members will know if the subcommittee will sponsor legislation lobbying to limit text messaging for next year’s legislative cycle. Proposed legislation must be submitted by July 15, and schools and conferences will then vote on the legislation. The earliest any change could take effect would be January of 2007.