By Catharine Aradi

As with most things in our lives, collegiate recruiting has been impacted by the 2020 corona virus pandemic. Because of that, this is a good time to update yourself on recruiting guidelines! The NCAA has many rules that both college coaches and recruits are supposed to follow.  The majority of college coaches do their very best to avoid breaking these rules, but once in awhile you may find yourself in an awkward situation with a coach who seems to be skating the thin line between what's legal and what's not.

The most commonly broken rules are those having to do with contacts. Most of the time this is inadvertent, but you need to understand these rules and be willing to speak up if necessary. Here are a few things you and your parents should try to remember at all times.  (If you're into temporary tattoos, consider having these inked on your forearm!)

1)     Div. I coaches may not have any contact with you anywhere (except instructional contact at a camp) prior to September 1 of your junior year.  They may acknowledge receipt of a letter you send them or send you camp information, but nothing else. Nor may Div. I coaches use a third part intermediary (such as a travel coach.) If a travel coach asks the college coach if he/she is interested in you as a prospect, the Div. I coach may say “Yes,” or “No.” That’s it!!!!

(You may, of course, write Div. I coaches at any time. Just don’t except much in the way of an answer until you’re a junior.)

2)     Div. II and Div. III coaches have a slightly different set of rules and dates they have to follow. For Div. II coaches, it’s June 15th following your sophomore year. After that, there are essentially no restrictions on recruiting contacts (beyond tournaments.)  Div. III coaches may contact you by phone or in writing at any time, however, they may not have off-campus in-person contact until after your sophomore year.

3)    If a coach calls you or talks to you before you've completed your junior year, politely remind him or her that you are not eligible to take phone calls, and get off the phone ASAP.  (The coach may need to report this contact, but there should be no repercussions that affect you.  Just don't give into the temptation to get into a prolonged conversation...and make sure mom and dad understand this as well.)

4)    The rule I see stretched most frequently governs face to face contacts. So, rein Dad in if you see him chatting up a coach in the bleachers or behind the backstop.  And if by some chance, an NCAA coach starts to talk to you or your parents before the approved date, just be sure you clarify your high school grad year, and tell the coach you'll be happy to talk to the coach whenever it's appropriate.

There are additional rules that determine things such as what is and isn't permissible on a visit, and so on. (For example, you might like the idea of going to a party where underage drinking is a possibility, but the NCAA (and your parents) will probably not feel the same way, and the softball coach could be held accountable.)

As tough as it is, don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. No matter what you may think about the rules, they exist for a reason, and breaking them could jeopardize your eligibility and a coach’s job.

Most of the time, a considerate reminder will do the trick. But should you start to feel uncomfortable with what’s going on, don’t hesitate to talk to your parents. They may need to contact the school’s Athletic Director or even the NCAA.  In the long run, any coach who feels he or she can't recruit you without breaking the rules probably isn't a coach you want to play for!

2020 Footnote: Due to the pandemic, Div. I coaches are in a "dead period" through August 31, 2020. This means they may have no contact with prospects except through mail, email, phone, text, etc. No on or off campus face-to-face contact is permitted, and Div. I coaches may not scout, work at camps, etc. Please watch this website for what happens after August 31.

Div. II coaches are in a "quiet period" through August 31, 2020. This too means they may not scout off-campus at tournaments, games, etc. However, they may talk to prospects on campus, communicate by phone, email, text, and so on. And if their college permits, Div. II coaches may work at camps. Please watch this website for what happens after August 31.

Div. III colleges do not use the "dead" or "quiet" period. However, scouting for Div. III coaches will be governed by each school's Athletic Dept. Policies during the pandemic.