College lacrosse recruiting was accelerated to the middle school ranks earlier this year as the University of Maryland secured the youngest ever recruitment on February 22. Several other recruits were verbally committing to schools before they ever played a high school lacrosse game.
That will now change.
— US Lacrosse (@USLacrosse) April 14, 2017
The NCAA passed a proposal to “slow down recently accelerated early recruiting” on April 14, taking effect April 26. Under the new legislation, head coaches will not be able to contact recruits in any way until September 1 of their junior year.
The new rules now stipulate that coaches are not allowed to speak through “middle men” like high school and club coaches, or parents and other family members to recruit players.
— Ty Xanders (@tyxanders) April 19, 2017
Former Terp and University of Vermont assistant coach Jake Bernhardt was able to clarify.
🚨NCAA Lax Recruiting Update🚨
– HS/Club Coaches please update your players.
— Jake Bernhardt (@jak3bernhardt) April 19, 2017
The rule change comes on the back of lots of criticism on college lacrosse recruiting. It has been the norm for head coaches to recruit as early as eighth graders. The old rules were going in a direction toward making prospective student-athletes decide where they are going to college before they even decide on a high school.
College coaches have praised the new rule change, citing that the more time to develop for recruits as an athlete and a person are better for both the coaches and recruits.
“Obviously, I think we are all on board with (the new legislation,)” Maryland Head Coach John Tillman said in an interview with Inside Lacrosse. “I think the longer we can wait to make decisions the better it is for college coaches and the better it is for the young men and their families to mature and figure out what is best for them. I think most people would agree it is kind of a broken process right now.”
Maryland has been a main culprit for snatching up early recruits. Tillman’s program has a reported 26 verbal commitments between the classes of 2019 and 2020, or sophomores and freshmen in high school.
Maryland’s biggest rival and next opponent, Johns Hopkins University, has just one less recruit coming in with 25 high school freshmen and sophomores. Hopkins Head Coach Dave Pietramala is no stranger to early recruiting, and explained just how much work it is to keep his verbal commits.
“With the way recruiting is going, we spend maybe more time managing and staying in touch and making sure those guys aren’t decommitting and getting poached,” Pietramala said to Inside Lacrosse. “It’s almost like you have to re-recruit your guys every couple weeks or every couple of months.”
Connor Shellenberger, the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2019, commented that the rule change “is a positive change and will prevent kids from doing from what I did.” Shellenberger had previously decommitted from Hopkins before choosing his hometown University of Virginia.
Other recruits have been taken aback when this legislation was passed. While the summer is the hottest time to get recruited, there is still plenty of communication during the high school season in the spring in the form of regular check ups and progress reports.
“I am not so much surprised by the rule being put in place, but more so the time period in which the rule was finalized,” Georgetown class of 2019 commit James Donaldson said. “I figured (early recruiting) couldn’t last very long…but I never thought it would be implemented this quick.”
Donaldson, who verbally committed to Georgetown earlier this year, spoke of how the rule change does not affect his relationship with Head Coach Kevin Warne as they both know what to expect from each other.
“Once we (the recruiting class) knew this rule was being enacted, we thought it’d be smart to leave him with some form of an update on our seasons, grades, and personal activities,” Donaldson said. “That was the last form of communication I had with Coach (Warne).”
Despite the seemingly positive impact the new rule could have on the entire landscape of the college lacrosse recruiting process, there are still some skeptics on how much change it will actually bring.
“I don’t think (the rule change) will change that much…” Tillman said in March, before the legislation was passed.
Prospective recruits are still allowed to visit college campuses and talk to other people within program. There has also been some criticism on how effectively the new rule will be policed.
Lacrosse recruiting guru Ty Xanders had this to say about the possibility to enforce the rule change.
It's impossible to police and another reason that the new rules likely won't be as impactful as people hope. Still a lot of gray area. https://t.co/SM0BaSk8dZ
— Ty Xanders (@tyxanders) April 19, 2017
Whether or not the rule change is effective remains to be seen, but if it works as it was intended to, then the landscape of college lacrosse recruiting will drastically change for the better.
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