With the new NCAA Division I recruiting rules, everyone in the softball community is scrambling to figure out how it will affect them.
NCAA Division I coaches are addressing recruiting issues that they don’t normally have to deal with during the season. Division II, Division III, NAIA, and JUCO coaches do not have changes in their rules; but are all aware that the new NCAA Division I rules will have a cascading effect on their recruiting timetables.
In reality, the new rules are an attempt to go “back to the future.”
It wasn’t so long ago that college coaches evaluated prospective student-athletes in their sophomore and junior years. They scheduled visits, made offers, and got commitments during a player’s junior and senior year. In December 2010, nearly midway through her junior year, a future All-American and Power-5 Conference pitcher of the year made her decision. She graduated from high school in 2012 and graduated from college in 2017. That was a “normal” recruiting process at that time. Today that same pitcher would have received offers 5 years earlier, during recess of her first year in middle school.
So what to do if you are in the middle of your recruiting process:
If you graduate in 2018 or 2019 – breathe a sigh of relief. If you are signed or verbally committed, you can still communicate with coaches just like you have been doing. If you are still in the process, keep communicating and find the right fit for you, regardless of division.
If you graduate in 2020 or later and are verbally committed to Division I schools you are not able to communicate with the coaches about recruiting until Sept. 1 of your junior year. How committed are you to the school, and how committed is the school to you? Additionally, coaching changes become a much more significant problem since there can be no recruiting conversation after a coaching change to check the status of a verbal commitment from the school or you.
If you graduate in 2020 or later and are verbally committed to all other divisions of play, rules have not changed for you. The new Division I rules give you a good excuse to call or contact (depending on contact rules for your specific division) the coaches at the school where you verbally committed.
If you graduate in 2020 or later and have offers, you’re in a tough spot. Decide before Wednesday or wait until September of your junior year when recruiting conversations resume. Any new verbal commitments from this group after the new rules go into effect are likely to be scrutinized regarding when the recruiting conversation took place.
If you graduate in 2020 or later and have offers, hip-hip-hooray! You can enjoy learning and playing the game again. You can focus on your academics, playing for your high school, developing your skills with your summer team, and fostering a healthy love for the game.
The new recruiting rules will force a reality check for all involved, slow the recruiting process down, and restore some sanity to the entire process. College coaches will no longer be recruiting children to replace players they don’t even have on campus yet. There will be challenges to change and some unintended or unforeseen consequences, but overall this is a healthy move for the game of softball.
About the Author: Phil Berry is in his fifth season as head coach of the softball team at Harding University. In 2017, Berry’s Lady Bisons compiled a 58-9 record. Berry was instrumental in developing the Atlanta Vipers Fastpitch Club and served as a head coach, member of the advisory board and chairman.