When clocks across the country turned to midnight and Thursday, June 14, became Friday, June 15, the phones of many male high school basketball players rang incessantly.
The NCAA changed the way men’s college basketball coaches recruit when it lifted limits on phone contact from coaches to the student-athletes they are courting.
According to an email from Ian Rickerby, Indiana University assistant athletic director for compliance, the new rule allows men’s college basketball coaches to make unlimited phone contact after ”June 15 at the conclusion of the individual’s sophomore year of high school.”
In the past, men’s basketball coaches were allowed to contact recruits by phone once a month from June 15 at the conclusion of the recruit’s sophomore year until August 1 of their senior year, according to Andy Humes, IU director of compliance
Coaches could then contact a recruit twice a week after August 1 of their senior year.
A little more than four years ago, the Hoosier men’s basketball program was immersed
in turmoil regarding phone calls.
Then-Head Coach Kelvin Sampson and members of his staff were involved in impermissible phone contact with recruits. Some of the violations found during those investigations are now allowed under the new rule.
The text ban on coaches had been in effect since 2007, in part because of concern about texting charges for recruits, Humes said. With unlimited text messaging a part of most cell phone plans today, that’s no longer a problem.
“Back then (prior to the 2007 ban) they didn’t have unlimited plans, so you text someone and some people got a little out of control with it and kept texting guys multiple times during the day,” IU Men’s Basketball Assistant Coach Tim Buckley said in an email. “If they went above and beyond what their plan called for, they could (have) hundreds of dollars on their phone bill for the month, so it really hurt.”
Darryl Hicks, a junior at Trinity High School in Louisville, Ky. was offered a scholarship by IU his freshman year and sees the benefit of the new rule from a recruit’s perspective.
“I can’t even tell you how many calls and messages I got (just after midnight on June 15),” said Darryl Hicks, a junior at Trinity High School in Louisville, Ky. “It is exciting to have coaches calling me and talk to me more often.”
Humes said coaches around the country pushed for the new policy because they have a desire to build a relationship with the prospective recruits.
“I think a lot of that push was from seeing earlier verbal commits and saying, ‘Well, if they are going to commit early it would be good to talk to them more than a few times a week,’” Humes said.
IU Men’s Basketball Head Coach Tom Crean and his staff took advantage of the new rule to check in with two of the top recruits in Indiana.
“This allows us to develop better relationships,” Buckley said. “We are allowed now to contact those in the classes of 2013 and 2014. It helps because if we can’t get a hold of someone on the phone we can send a text to ask them to call.”
Buckley and Crean contacted two of the top recruits in Indiana shortly after the deadline passed, including 2013 IU commit Collin Hartman.
“I had conversations with both of them, casual conversation and conversations about basketball and what is expected of me in the future,” Hartman said.
Hartman said he likes the new rule because the coaches can provide constructive criticism about his game and ways he can improve.
“You can ask them anything, anytime. You don’t have to call them and have a conversation and stop what you are doing,” Hartman said. ”You can just send a text and go on with your day.”
How parents handle the recruiting of their children differs by family, though.
“You would think that if anyone would potentially be upset it would be (recruit parents),” Humes said. “I have not heard any negative feedback from them.”
Mike Crawford, a Tipton High School junior, handles his own recruiting calls, his father said. Crawford’s father likes the new policy and thinks it will be a positive influence on recruits.
On the other hand, Pike High School (Indianapolis) standout Zavier Turner’s parents oversee his recruiting process. He said they fielded seven calls just after midnight Friday.
“They like it, too,” Turner said of his parents. “It shows how interested schools are. Without that rule you would have to reach out to the school.”
Negative comments about the policy were hard to find.
“I feel like it’s good,” IU 2013 commit Devin Davis said. “You get an early relationship with the head coach and assistant coach. Coach Crean texted me and said he was happy to have me down (at IU for open gym).”
The athletes and their parents are not the only ones to be affected by the new rule
Carmel High School (Indianapolis) Boy’s Basketball Head Coach Scott Heady thinks it will be up to the college coaches to make smart choices when communicating with recruits.
“I think most college coaches will do what is in the best interest of the player,” Heady said. “We try to work as much as we can with the college coaches and try to be involved as much as we can and be up-to-date with what they are doing.”
Understanding that not all coaches will think about the kids, Humes said some discussion among compliance officials has taken place about creating a “do not call” list.
“The coaches are recruiting. They are selling the prospect on the school, the program, and on themselves,” Humes said. “If a prospect says, ‘Hey, coach, I am getting too many calls. Can you back off?’ I think it is going to be to their benefit to do that, or they will not get that recruit.”