Athletic Recruiting NCAA Recruiting Dates Starting Early

New NCAA Recruiting Rules Change the Timing for Certain Recruiting Activities

If you’ve ever asked, “When can Division 1 coaches contact me?” you’ve probably come across the NCAA recruiting rules and calendar. Together, these two documents outline when and how coaches can contact recruits throughout the year.

The NCAA just approved a new set of rules that will change the way Division 1 college coaches can recruit athletes during camps and visits, taking their protection of recruits’ time one step further. The rules take effect immediately, starting Wednesday, April 25, 2018. But don’t worry; your overall recruiting strategy will, for the most part, stay the same. Here, we explain what the new rules are, who they will affect and what this means for your recruiting journey.

Who do the new recruiting rules affect?

The new NCAA recruiting rules will affect all D1 sports except Division 1 football, Division 1 men’s and women’s basketball and Division 1 men’s and women’s lacrosse. D1 softball took the rules one step further, adding a few extra limitations on coach communications, which we’ve outlined below.

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What are the new recruiting rules?

The new recruiting rules essentially push back the dates that coaches can talk about recruiting to athletes in person. Here’s a list of all the new changes:

  • Official visits: Recruits can now start taking official visits starting September 1 of their junior year of high school. In the past, official visits weren’t permitted until the athlete’s senior year of high school, so this rule is actually bumping them up!
  • Camps: Recruits and college coaches are not allowed to have any recruiting conversations during camps prior to September 1 of the athlete’s junior year of high school. Previously, there weren’t really any rules that prevented coaches from talking about recruiting to underclassmen during camps. In fact, it had become common practice for college coaches to extend verbal scholarship offers to top recruits during camps.
  • Unofficial visits: Division 1 college athletic departments—this includes college coaches—are not allowed to be involved in a recruit’s unofficial visits until after September 1 of their junior year. Quick refresher: Unofficial visits are any campus visits paid for entirely by the recruit’s family. Before the rule change, unofficial visits were an easy way for underclassmen to visit a college camps, meet with the coach and get an early verbal offer. Under the new rules, if athletes want to take unofficial visits, they cannot schedule them with the coach until September 1 junior year—they should treat the unofficial visit just like any other student would. If the recruit happens to bump into the coach on campus, they can’t have any recruiting conversations at that time.
  • D1 softball only: Softball took the new rules to the next level by making it illegal for college coaches to talk to recruits before September 1 of their junior year, even if the athlete initiates the contact. In addition, a club or high school softball coach is no longer allowed to discuss their athletes recruiting with a Division 1 college softball coach before September 1 of that athlete’s junior year.

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What are ‘recruiting conversations’ and ‘recruiting messages’?

Recruiting conversations refers to in-person contact between a recruit and college coach, in which they discuss the athlete’s recruiting journey, the coach’s interest in that athlete—or anything related to the athlete’s recruiting process.

Similarly, recruiting messages include any emails, direct messages or letters that discuss where an athlete is at in their recruiting process, if a college coach is recruiting an athlete or anything else related to an athlete’s overall recruiting journey.

Insider tip: The one thing that college coaches can say to club or high school coaches: “I’m interested in your athlete.”  They just can’t discuss specifics that might lead to an unofficial offer or unofficial commitment.

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Why the rule changes?

The NCAA hopes these rule changes will cut back on the number of recruits getting verbal offers as eighth graders, freshmen and sophomores in high school. Athletes will now have more time to research colleges and focus on developing athletically and academically. Then, as juniors and seniors in high school, they will be better equipped to decide which college or university is right for them.

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How will this impact your recruiting?

As we mentioned earlier, your overall recruiting strategy isn’t going to change that much. But the new rules will make it even more important to do all your research and recruiting groundwork up front during your freshman and sophomore years in high school. By the time you hit September 1 of your junior year, you need to really hit the ground running, developing relationships with college coaches, attending official and unofficial visits, and going to college camps.

In all sports except lacrosse and softball, athletes should stay proactive in reaching out to all college coaches. Athletes can ALWAYS initiate contact with a college coach. Always. In addition, you will still want to game plan with your current club and/or high school coach about reaching out to college coaches on your behalf.

In lacrosse and softball, college coaches will still be evaluating prospects very early and can still tell your club or high school coach they are interested in you. It will make it more difficult to get a clear signal form a D1 college coach if they are interested in you before your junior year, but it will still happen.

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So, I don’t need to start the recruiting process until junior year of high school?

With these new recruiting rules, it’s more important than ever to get all your ducks in a row before your junior year of high school. Recruiting doesn’t start with coach communications—it begins with researching schools, creating your target list, building your online recruiting profile, putting together your highlight/skills video and really laying down the groundwork for a successful recruiting process. Recruits need to complete all these steps early on, because come September 1 of their junior year, the floodgates will open, with camp and official visit invites streaming out to of-age athletes who are on the coach’s list of recruits. You need to be on that list and ready for those invites.

Bear in mind that these rules impact D1 programs. The majority of student-athletes aren’t going to compete at a D1 school. If you have a few D1 programs on your target list, these rules are good to know, so you understand not to expect a verbal offer before your junior year of high school. Otherwise, the recruiting process is going to be largely unchanged for you.

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Do the new rules impact how families will use NCSA?

NCSA’s role in the recruiting process won’t change with these new NCAA recruiting rules. At NCSA, we provide the network of college coaches, tools, education and expert guidance families need to find their best college match. All of these tools are still going to be extremely valuable as you research schools and initiate contact with college coaches.

In fact, for underage athletes, our Coach Activity Reports are going to be incredibly helpful, alerting recruits when a college coach has shown interest in their recruiting information. Athletes can use this report to reach out to those college coaches before the coach can initiate contact with them. At the very least, you need to build and keep updating your online recruiting profile. That way, college coaches can evaluate you as a recruit before they are able to initiate contact with you. When they can reach out, you will already be on their list of prospects.

For more information about how NCSA can help your recruiting efforts, call our team of recruiting experts at 866-495-5172.

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Can a sophomore still call a D1 coach and have a ‘recruiting conversation’?

Athletes in sports other than softball and lacrosse can still talk about recruiting with coaches on the phone as sophomores. The athlete must call the coach and the coach has to pick up the phone—they are not allowed to call underage recruits back until either June 15 or September 1 of their junior year, depending on the sport.

Division 1 softball and lacrosse recruits aren’t allowed to have any recruiting conversations on the phone with student-athletes before September 1 of their junior year. Here’s how the conversation will probably go if underage recruits give it a try:

  • When a coach answers the phone, they will ask for the student’s grad year.
  • If the recruit is underage, the coach will simply remind the athlete they are not allowed to talk to them and hang up.

However, a softball or lacrosse recruit’s high school or club coach can call a college coach on their behalf to ask if the coach is recruiting their athlete. The college coach can only respond with either “Yes, I am recruiting the athlete” or “No, I am not recruiting the athlete.”
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What about 8th graders who already have a verbal commitment?

Athletes in sports other than softball and lacrosse can still communicate with college coaches via phone, email and social media. Just remember: The college coach cannot respond to emails, calls or messages until the NCAA recruiting rules allow. Athletes in sports outside of softball and lacrosse can also communicate with college coaches through their high school or club coach.

For softball and lacrosse athletes, they are not allowed to talk to college coaches until September 1 of their junior year—even if they already have a verbal offer. Athletes can still email the coach or leave them voicemails to keep them updated about their progress, but the college coach will not be able to engage with them until September 1 of junior year. The bottom line: D1 softball and lacrosse coaches cannot communicate with recruits at all or through any means until September 1 of the athlete’s junior year of high school.
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Volleyball has Junior Olympics in July. So, this affects the contact effective now?

The new rules don’t affect off-campus events, as the existing NCAA rules prohibit D1 coaches from communicating with underage athletes off-campus. In order for college coaches at off-campus events to contact recruits, it has to be during an evaluation period and the recruit has to be old enough. Check out the recruiting rules and recruiting calendar to find the dates for your sport.
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Infographic: New NCAA recruiting rules at-a-glance


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Original posted updated May 9, 2018 to include additional FAQs.

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About the author
David Frank