Making sense of the rules for Division 1 college recruiting visits
You’re nearing the phase of your recruiting journey and that means you’re are starting to consider college recruiting visits. If you’re aiming for a D1 school and feeling a little confused, you are not alone!
The NCAA has a big fat rule book for each division. This manual covers everything from how schools can use scholarship funds to lists of banned substances to dates coaches can hold practices, and everything in between. Every year a few updates are made to the rules, and this year there have several key changes in Division 1.
Their stated goal? To improve the overall recruiting process for student-athletes.
Like any change, I do see the pros and cons, but I think in the end everyone in the volleyball will learn to adjust.
Of particular importance to you as a potential volleyball recruit will be the new guidelines on recruiting visits for 2018. After all, recruiting visits are an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to you making an informed decision about where you want to spend your next four years.
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There are rules for when and how college coaches can interact with you, whether face-to-face, on their campus, on your campus, or at tournaments. There are rules for how many times you can visit a school and interact with the athletic staff. There are even rules for how many meals you can receive and when.
With all of these rules to keep track of, universities create positions, even fully-staffed compliance departments, to make sure they are following regulations in each of their sports. Being found not in compliance is a big deal, and no college athletic director or coach wants their job or their program on the line as a result of a compliance violation.
That being said, you as a college-bound student-athlete should not rely on a coach or his compliance office to make sure you are keeping in line with the rules. You must understand these rules yourself, or risk jeopardizing your eligibility.
A few quick recruiting terms
We should probably clarify what the NCAA means with certain terminology they use surrounding the recruiting process.
These definitions come from the NCAA recruiting info page:
Official visits: Any visit to a college campus by a PSA or his or her parents paid for by the college.
Unofficial visits: Visits paid for by the PSA or their parents.
Recruiting happens when a college employee or representative invites a high school student-athlete to play sports for their college (via a face-to-face meeting, through phone calls, text messaging, mailed or emailed material, or through social media).
Contact period: a coach may have face-to-face contact with a PSA or their parents, watch student-athletes compete or visit their high schools and write or telephone student-athletes or their parents.
Evaluation period: a coach may not have face-to-face contact with a PSA or their parents off the college campus. However, a coach may watch a PSA compete, visit their high school and write or telephone the PSA or their parents.
Quiet period: a coach may only have face-to-face contact with a PSA or their parents on the college campus and may not watch a PSA compete or visit their high schools. Coaches may write or telephone PSAs or their parents during this time.
Dead period: a coach may not have face-to-face contact with a PSA or their parents and may not watch a PSA compete or visit their high schools. Coaches may write and telephone student-athletes or their parents during a dead period.
The rule changes:
Unofficial recruiting visits
The biggest change to the recruiting rules is with unofficial visits. Coaches or their athletic department staff are no longer allowed to have contact with freshmen or sophomores (including during campus tours), because a potential student-athlete (PSA) is not allowed to participate in what is considered an unofficial visit until September 1st of their junior year in high school.
This change will likely affect some schools more than others. The larger more sought-after schools who have been known almost be in an unspoken race to recruit athletes at early ages will probably have the most adjustments to make.
The rationale for having this “hands off until junior year” approach is to help let high school student-athletes and their families know that they don’t have to rush, they can take some time to make a good decision on what school is really going to be the right fit.
What it means for you
Because freshmen and sophomores won’t be able to make unofficial visits, that means unless you are a post-September 1st junior, you will not have access to seeing the training facilities or talking to coaches (even messages relayed through club coaches are restricted) or players. It also means a coach can no longer leave tickets for you and your family to watch their games (at least not for free – you can still BUY tickets). 🙂
Travel tournaments and (unofficial) campus tours
College coaches at schools located in cities close to where big tournaments are held often receive requests from traveling teams who would like a tour of their campus and its facilities while they are in town. If the players on those teams are freshmen or sophomores, under the new rule they cannot participate.
That said, there is nothing preventing college-bound athletes from visiting a campus outside of an athletic capacity, as long as someone affiliated with the athletic program isn’t involved. A “self-guided” campus tour still has its merits, and if the student-athlete is still interested by the time he/she becomes a junior, they’ll just have to try to come back again after September 1.
Other stuff that can and cannot happen on unofficial recruiting visits
- Coaches may still write and telephone prospective student-athletes or their parents during a “dead period”, but that athlete still must be a junior in high school and it has to be after September 1st.
- Recruiting conversations are also restricted during a school’s camp or clinic. Again, this is only if it’s before Sept. 1 of the junior year.
So what has changed as far as official visits? Perhaps the biggest change is the age, which, like unofficial visits, is September 1 of the athlete’s junior year.
Previous to this change, a recruit could only take an official visit after the first day of classes in their senior year of high school. Now that a junior is eligible, this opens up earlier opportunities for a student-athlete to explore their options.
Because an official visit is one where the school is footing the bill, navigating this rule change may get interesting for some programs, as they will now have to decide at what stage of the recruiting process they invite a recruit to campus. Basically, where they used to have just the senior class to think about, now they have to stretch their strategy (and their dollars) out across two years.
The incoming class
Currently, many coaches enjoy building camaraderie among each freshmen class by bringing in all of their committed incoming recruits to campus together on the same weekend to watch a big match and start getting to know each other. Now that official visits will be spread out over two years, coaches will have to decide not only how to make the best use of their time and resources, but what methods will work best to build their team culture.
You might be thinking, why not just bring in a recruit for a visit in both their junior and senior years? Well, there is a rule for that, too (and this rule hasn’t changed). A prospective student-athlete may only (officially) visit each school once. The total number of officials taken may not exceed 5 visits to all schools. There is a new exception, which is another rule change, and this is only if a head coaching change happens after a recruit has been signed. That recruit may have one additional expense-paid visit to that school.
Other rules governing the official visit
Assuming an athlete is at least a junior (and it is past September 1), the following rules also apply to official recruiting visits:
- An official visit may last no longer than 48 hrs (clock starts when PSA arrives on campus or receives a sit-down meal)
- Lodging, entertainment and meals must all take place within 30 miles of campus
- Transportation to and from campus can be covered by the school
- The school cannot pay for anyone accompanying the PSA (i.e. parents, friend, relative)
- A maximum of 3 complimentary admissions to a home event can be provided (nontraditional families are provided an additional 2 tickets)
- A student host may receive $40/day to cover expenses of entertaining the PSA
- The school can provide 3 meals + 1 snack for the prospect and the parents/legal guardians
- The PSA may only meet with current student-athletes, institutional employees and spouses (no contact w/boosters, but they are allowed to meet alumni)
- The PSA may not engage in any workout activities or tryouts
If you’ve been invited to go on a visit, I encourage you to go! It’s amazing how much with each trip you will learn and grow. In some cases, relationships built with players, families, and coaches over a weekend recruiting visit can last years. Even if a player chooses a different school or a coach decides not to extend an offer, it’s nice that we can stay connected through the sport we love.
With each of my kids’ recruiting visits, they learned a little more. They learned what they wanted in a school, in a volleyball program, and they got to see “behind the scenes” with the coaches and players so that they could make informed decisions. And yes, it’s true that not every visit results in an offer, but the experience was a valuable one in every case.
No visit? You can still connect!
No matter at what age the NCAA decides it will allow you to visit schools, you don’t have to wait for an invitation to start building a relationship. Continue emailing, sending your highlight footage, and inviting coaches to see you play at tournaments. And of course, keep improving your game. Remember, just because they may not be able to respond to you just yet doesn’t mean they aren’t watching!
Still confused on what’s allowed on official vs unofficial recruiting visits? No worries, I’ve made this FREE Cheat Sheet you can download and print to make sure you are on top of it all. Download your PDF here!
Not sure how to connect with coaches? These resources can help!
- Tips for what to say in your emails (free download)
- How to create a highlight video that coaches actually want to watch
- Highlight video editing service
- Done-for-you website service
- Up to date NCAA information at NCAA.org