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NCAA Opens Door to Text Messaging for Recruiting

By guest blogger Mike Bock

Text messaging is soon to become a key recruiting tool for NCAA Division I and II men's college basketball coaches, opening the door for other sports in those divisions to follow the rule change if it works.

But some experts are worried that loosening the rules for electronic contact between coaches and high school athletes could lead to abuses by some college sports programs.

Starting June 15, coaches will be able to send unlimited text messages to high school athletes they are recruiting who have finished their sophomore year, Sports Illustrated.com reported. The NCAA board approved the decision to deregulate phone and text message contact between high school students and coaching staff in January.

Though high school athletes are currently allowed to initiate text messaging with college coaches in any sport, the practice of coaches texting athletes for recruiting purposes has been banned for all NCAA sports since 2007. The Toledo Blade recently reported:

"Text messages were outlawed by the NCAA five years ago amid concerns of excessive use and athletes accruing astronomical charges. Advancement in technology and the rise of unlimited text plans create an atmosphere to revisit the issue, with men's basketball set to be the guinea pig. No other sports have adopted the reform, although women's coaches could follow by next year."

Before the decision to deregulate contact was made in January, the NCAA limited contact between Division I coaches and recruits to one phone call per month, and penalized athletics programs for violations. One of the more famous examples is Kelvin Sampson, a coach who (with his staff) was sanctioned by NCAA and university officials for making more than 550 impermissible phone calls to recruits while at the University of Oklahoma and Indiana University from 2003-2007.

Social media contact between high school athletes and coaches isn't quite as defined. Private messages between athletes and Division I coaches are permissible, but public messages (such as wall posts on Facebook) are considered a secondary violation of NCAA recruiting rules. However, Division III sports programs, which have allowed unlimited texting as a recruiting tool since January, do not allow coaches to contact athletes via social media.

While supporters of the change say increased contact between students and coaches could build healthier, more successful relationships, opponents are concerned that highly-recruited athletes will be distracted by hundreds of calls and texts from potential coaches. Either way, the recruiting landscape is in for a change, says SportsIllustrated.com:

"Starting June 15...there won't be any restrictions on calls or text messages to prospects completing their sophomore seasons. That could lead to chaos, particularly in the days immediately following the change."

"Some people may look at it like, 'I don't want to be the school that doesn't call him three times in a day,'" Iowa assistant coach Andrew Francis told SportsIllustrated.com. "Some schools may think it's a great idea to say, 'Well, we've got to get this guy on the phone at least three times a day and let him know we're thinking about him.' That's a bit much, in my opinion, but some kids may love it. But after a while, it wears on you."

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