When student-athletes start the recruiting process, one of their first questions is: “When can college coaches contact high school athletes?” For Division 1 football, college coaches can start reaching out to recruits September 1 of their junior year of high school via all electronic communications, which includes texting, emailing and social media direct messages. Read all about the latest college football recruiting news. D2 coaches can reach out to recruits starting June 15 after the athlete’s sophomore year via electronic communications, recruiting materials, phone calls and in-person, off-campus recruiting contacts. D3 and NAIA coaches don’t have any restrictions on when they can begin contacting recruits, but they generally wait until around junior year unless a recruit is reaching out to them and showing interest in their school. There is a lot of information to learn about football colleges and recruiting.
The NCAA football recruiting rules and calendar outline when and how college coaches can reach out to athletes. These rules are in place to protect elite athletes from getting overwhelming amounts of contact from college coaches. However, they can be a little misleading as they don’t accurately represent when recruiting really starts for football. At the D1 and higher level D2 programs, coaches are scouting recruits as young as 8th grade or freshman year of high school to ensure that they lock down top talent before their competition. For D3 and NAIA schools, coaches start a little later, scouting for athletes in their junior year and extending the majority of their offers late junior year or early senior year of high school. Once you know the football calendar—learn more about the football recruiting process.
Families can use the NCAA football recruiting rules and NCAA football recruiting calendar to make sure they’re on track in their recruiting. For example, if it’s September 1 of the athlete’s junior year of high school, they can receive emails, texts and DMs from D1, D2, D3 and NAIA coaches. If they haven’t heard from any coaches at this point, they know you have some work to do to get on their radar! The recruiting calendar is also a good way for athletes and their coaches to organize their recruiting efforts for the year. For example, if an athlete is a senior in high school during a contact period, they should arrange campus visits and maximize coach contact during this time. Learn the secrets of college football recruiting.
According to NCSA survey data, there is more volatility in college recruiting across all sports and many college coaches are unsure of how exactly recruiting will play out in the near future.
Focusing on the Division 1 level, the recruiting timeline is shortening according to insights provided by Zcruit, a subsidiary company of NCSA that analyzes college football recruiting data and is partnered with more than 50 Division 1 football programs. Data shows there was an 88% increase in Division 1 commitments in April and March of 2020 compared to 2019. Zcruit CEO Ben Weiss adds, “The pace of commitments has accelerated. Kids have committed way earlier in this cycle than they have in the past.”
Part of this is because it is becoming more common for Division 1 recruits to commit to a college sight unseen, even if they only have tepid interest in a school. Visiting college campuses has become difficult and more recruits are accepting offers because they are unsure how many they will receive in this recruiting climate. They are feeling like they just want the uncertainty and the process to be over with.
While it may be tempting for a prospect to take the first offer and be done with recruiting, it’s important to find a good college match that meets athletic, academic, social and financial needs. The best college is one where a prospect would want to attend regardless of football because NCSA data shows over 45% of underclassmen athletes are not listed on their college roster the following year.
D1 football coaches can send athletes recruiting questionnaires, camp brochures and non-athletic institutional publications freshman and sophomore year. Most other contact begins September 1 of the athlete’s junior year, according to the NCAA football recruiting rules.
The NCAA football recruiting rules for Division 2 are the same across all sports. For football, the rules are slightly more relaxed than those for Division 1:
D3 and NAIA colleges are generally left to create their own recruiting rules and schedules. They don’t have limits on when coaches can contact recruits. The only standardized rule for D3 schools is that coaches are not allowed to meet with recruits or their families off-campus until the athlete has completed their sophomore year of high school.
Throughout the school year, specific types of contact with college coaches are permitted during certain times at the D1 and D2 level. Layer the 2020-21 NCAA recruiting calendar on top of the recruiting rules to determine what type of contact to expect based on your age and the time of year.
Dead period: During the dead period, coaches may not have any in-person contact with recruits and/or their parents. They are not allowed to talk to recruits at their college campus, the athlete’s school, an athletic camp or even the grocery store.
Division 1 FBS
Division 1 FCS
Quiet period: The quiet period is a time you can talk to college coaches in-person on their college campus. However, the coach is not allowed to watch athletes compete in-person, visit their school, talk to them at their home—or talk to them anywhere outside of the college campus.
Division 1 FBS
Division 1 FCS
Evaluation period: This is a specific time of year when college coaches are allowed to watch an athlete compete in person or visit their school. However, coaches are not allowed to communicate with that athlete (or their parents) off the college campus.
Division 1 FBS and FCS
Contact period: The NCAA contact period is exactly what it sounds like—all communication between athletes and coaches is fair game. In other words, the communication floodgates are open, so take advantage of this opportunity to get unlimited access to coaches.
Division 1 FBS and FCS
Insider tip: While it’s always helpful to be familiar with the NCAA recruiting rules and calendar, it’s really up to the college coaches to comply with the rules. As an athlete, you can email, call or DM a coach at any time. It’s the coach’s responsibility to check the rules before they respond.
Insider tip: Despite the impact that coronavirus had on college sports, as of June 1, 2021, the NCAA resumed its regular recruiting rules and activity! Coaches are actively working to fill their rosters, so student-athletes should be proactive in reaching out to coaches. Read up on how the extra year of eligibility granted to athletes who were most affected by the pandemic in 2020 will impact future recruiting classes.