Recruit Me Monday - Communications with Coaches and College Visits

For the high school athlete looking to play at the collegiate level, the recruiting process can be one of the most exciting times of their life. It can also become one of the most confusing and difficult processes for parents and players if they are unaware and unprepared for everything the process entails. Over the next few weeks we will be sending an email out once a week with information covering the recruiting process and what to expect and prepare for. We will cover the following areas: Eligibility/Academics, Important dates for prospects and college coaches, D1 scholarships, Financial Aide outside of athletic scholarships, communications with college coaches, and college visits. 

Communications with Coaches and College Visits 

PRINTED RECRUITING MATERIALS

A college coach can provide a prospect the following at any time (in person or via mail) but cannot send actual recruiting materials (personalized letters promoting their program to a prospect, media guides, schedule posters and the like) until September 1st of the prospects junior year.

  • Camp brochures
  • Questionnaire
  • NCAA educational info
  • Non-athletics Institutional Publication: for example – admissions office view books, a handout on the college of business, etc.

One common problem when it comes to these rules pops up when a prospect sends a letter or e-mail to a college coach prior to September 1st of their junior year in high school. When this happens the college coach can only reply with a very generic response (in addition to including one or more of the items above if they so choose). The response cannot “include information that would initiate the recruitment of the prospect.”

So if Bryce Harper sent a letter to a Division I college coach when he was a sophomore in high school the coach would have had to respond with something along the lines of “thanks for your interest, here is a camp brochure” when in reality the college coach would likely be doing cartwheels in his office since a great player actually sent HIM a letter!  

Therefore, don’t assume a lack of interest when you get really bland correspondence from college baseball coaches prior to September 1st of your junior year.

Like mentioned above, once September 1st of your junior year rolls around a college coach can continue to provide camp brochures, etc., AND can now provide prospects with actual recruiting materials.  There are a bunch of specific rules like the size (can’t be bigger than 8.5 x 11, for example) and limits on color of ink used (not joking!) but I will spare you from listing all of those.

Recruiting materials are most often in the form of typed letters, form letters, post cards and note cards (aka handwritten ‘love letters’) and there are no limits in terms of how many of these items they can mail to you.

Electronic Communications

Current rules also state that the only forms of electronically transmitted correspondence that a college baseball coach can send to a prospect (or their parent/legal guardian) are e-mail, text messages and faxes.

When it comes to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter – a private or direct message is considered an e-mail AND any instant message type of application, even if part of a social media site, is viewed as the same as a text message.

College coaches, athletic department staff and representatives of athletics interests cannot publicize information regarding the recruitment of a prospect prior to their signing of a National-Letter-of-Intent.  Being that Facebook and Twitter feeds are public they cannot mention you specifically in anything they post until you have signed with them.  For example, if a player verbally commits to a school the coach cannot congratulate them via a Twitter post - because Twitter is public, they view something like this the same as the coach holding a press conference announcing the verbal commitment which is not legal until a prospect signs.

College coaches get creative sometimes when they land a big commitment and tweet out a generic "Picked a big commitment today" or similar reference which is legal just as long as the prospects name isn't included.

Phone Calls

The NCAA has been on a deregulation kick over the past few years and this has impacted the rules regarding phone calls and, therefore, the rules have changed since we posted an article on this topic a year ago.

This is a good change, in my opinion, it saves coaches time and also has made this article an easier read than the one a year ago because it’s about half as long!

  • College baseball coaches can begin placing phone calls to prospects and their parents/legal guardians at their discretion on September 1st of their junior year. At their discretion meaning unlimited. The rule used to be one phone call per week and coaches had to log their calls and submit this information to the athletics department compliance office. 
  • Only coaches certified to recruit off-campus can call prospects – in Division I baseball this includes the head coach and two paid assistants. The volunteer coach and non-coaching staff cannot call prospects.
  • Administrators from the college can call prospects – for example the college president, athletic director, academic counselors and the like.
  • Coaches can call prospects anytime (including prior to September 1st of their junior year) regarding a camp related issue for a camp they are hosting, for example if they change the time of a camp and need to let a prospect know but they cannot engage in any recruiting talk during the call.
  • A prospect can place a phone call at their own expense to a college coach at any time (including prior to September 1st of their junior year).
  • There are more rules in this area but they involve rare scenarios and I think this is enough drilling down on this topic for now.

A couple of real world questions often come to mind when it comes to phone calls:

  1. Should I call a college coach out of the blue?  I wouldn’t recommend doing this unless there is some kind of pre-existing relationship – for example, there has been some sort of recruiting effort initiated by the coach and in the process they have encouraged you to call them at any time (or a specific time).
  2. How do college coaches recruit underclassmen if they cannot legally call them until September 1st of their junior year?  This is where we get into a little bit of a grey area. Clearly they cannot call a prospect, however the prospect can call a coach prior to this date. Usually what happens here is the coach subtly prompts the prospect to call them in some way, for example a sophomore is on an unofficial visit at a school (legal prior to the September 1st junior year date) and on the visit one of the coaches encourages them to call “I will be free this Wednesday after 500pm, so if you’d like to call I would be glad to hear from you.” They have to be somewhat vague here because technically they aren’t supposed to directly prompt prospects to call them. Another method is for the recruiter to prompt a coach of the player to have the player call, for example “I’d love to hear from Johnny sometime can you make sure he has my number?” Once again, they need to do this in a vague manner.

One thing to keep in mind if you call a college coach prior to September 1st of your junior year is if you miss them and leave a message they cannot call you back – per the phone call restrictions listed above. Trust me, I hated this rule when I coached as it forced me to be rude by not returning calls – but a rule it is. I literally had kids scratch the school I was working at off their list of top schools because they felt I wasn’t showing interest because I never returned their calls! So, keep these rules in mind if ever confronted with this scenario – the coach isn’t being rude, he’s being compliant with NCAA rules.

College Visits

 Recruiting visits to the campus of an NCAA school fall into two categories:

  1. Official Visit (Paid)
  2. Unofficial Visit (Unpaid)

Below are some fine points regarding the two types of visits:

Official Visit

  • A prospect can make an official visit to a Division I school starting on the first day of their senior year in high school.
  • Can be paid all or in part by the athletic department at the school.
  • Transportation, meals (maximum of three a day), hotels, three game passes to home athletics contest, entertainment ($40 per day) can all be provided by the college.
  • A prospect can only take one visit per school.
  • A college baseball program can host up to 25 official visits per year (August 1 – July 31).
  • In order to take an official visit a high school prospect must be registered with the NCAA Eligibility Center, submit a PSAT, SAT, PLAN or ACT test score to the school, submit a high school transcript to the school and must be placed on the school’s institutional request list (aka IRL, this gives the school access to all of the academic/amateurism information you submit to the Eligibility Center).
  • An official visit cannot last longer than 48 hours starting from the time the prospect first arrives on campus.

Unofficial Visit

  • A prospect may take an unlimited number of unofficial visits to an unlimited number of schools.
  • A prospect can take unofficial visits prior to their senior year in high school.
  • The school can provide three game passes per prospect to a home athletics contest.

Unofficial visits have become a much more important part of the recruiting process in college baseball in conjunction with the push to offer and commit underclass prospects.  Based on the rules above, all of the sophomores and juniors that are making verbal commitments are doing so prior to ever making an official visit.

Once a prospect is on a college campus the coaches can speak with them and their parents in person whether it’s before or after July 1st of their senior year (the first day a coach can talk to a prospect off-campus). This is why college baseball coaches make a push to get as many top underclassmen prospects on campus (unofficial visit) as possible.

Often times the three game passes part of the unofficial visit gives the coaches a carrot to help entice prospects to visit – for example, a college coach might email a junior in high school and write “we are playing Notre Dame in football this weekend, would you like to come up with your parents, meet with the baseball coaches and then go to the football game?” Next thing you know the prospect and his parents are in the head coach’s office talking face to face.

 

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