by Catharine Aradi

At its January 2015 convention, the NCAA enacted significant recruiting guideline changes for Division III schools.  As of this year, D-III coaches will be able to reach out in person to prospects after their sophomore year instead of having to wait until the players have finished their junior year in high school.

This means a D-III coach can now talk to you off campus at the end of your sophomore year. He or she can also speak with you or your parents at a tournament or camp site (once you’re done competing for the day), and there are essentially no limitations on contacts.

D-III coaches may also invite you to take an official visit to their campuses as of January 1 of your junior year. If you elect to commit to a D-III college, you will also be able to sign a non-binding celebratory letter acknowledging your commitment.

Now…what does all of this really mean?

When Division II schools voted to approve a similar deregulation a few years ago, some people expected a rash of early commitments and D-II coaches phoning juniors on June 15 following their sophomore year to offer visits and scholarships. It didn’t happen!

Yes, you will occasionally hear about a player taking a visit to and possibly even committing to a D-II college as a junior, but for the most part, D-II coaches are following a recruiting schedule that’s not significantly different from what they’ve always done. That means most D-II coaches start reaching out to players sometime between the junior and senior year, and most will look for commitments after the junior year.  Frankly, I fully expect the Division III changes to have the exact same impact on recruiting.

Here’s why.  D-III coaches often have limited recruiting travel budgets to use for scouting, and they may not know exactly what positions they’ll need for a given year until that year happens.  They also know that many families are looking for scholarships or expecting their players to compete for D-I colleges and that many of these families (and players) won’t come down to earth until the senior year is at hand.

Some D-III teams are at highly academic schools such as Tufts or Emory.  Those colleges almost universally evaluate a student’s admissibility after her junior year in high school--and some not until the fall of her senior year.  This means no matter how much the softball coach at this type of college would love to guarantee your admission and offer you a spot on the team, he or she simply cannot do that until the admissions office has reviewed your academic profile.

Will there be some D-III coaches talking to players at tournaments after their sophomore year? Of course. Will there be some D-III coaches offering official visits in the spring of a player’s junior year? You bet!  And there will definitely be a few more players committing to D-III colleges as juniors.  But for the most part, what these guideline changes will do is allow D-III coaches more flexibility when it comes to recruiting and provide them with a greater opportunity to find players who are a great fit for their colleges!

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