By Maren Angus
The National Fastpitch Coaches Association announced that its NCAA Division I membership submitted a response to the NCAA about early recruiting. DI coaches asked that all recruiting contact begin on Sept. 1 of a student-athlete’s junior year.
“It’s been a hot topic,” said NFCA Executive Director Carol Bruggeman at the NFCA Convention last month. “ I don’t think there’s anyone that would say they love it (early recruiting). From the college coaches to the travel ball/high school coaches and probably if you ask the players and are realistic about it, they may be committing early but you and I both know that the level of understanding and maturity is very difficult at that time. So you end up having a parent involved in a lot more than in the past.”
WE HAVE TO MAKE A CHANGE! NOW!! https://t.co/S456G19KYw
— Larissa Anderson (@CoachLarissaA) January 11, 2018
The time is now. Share and join the campaign, we have been working on this for a VERY long time!! https://t.co/sDkcsgc6Jv
— Joanna Lane (@JoannaELane) January 11, 2018
The topic was consistently talked about at convention starting with Jessica Mendoza. She challenged everyone in the room with her keynote address to end early recruiting. Arizona head coach Mike Candrea spoke about the topic as well when he flat out said, “I don’t like talking to 7th and 8th graders.”
In December 2017, the first 12-year-old recruits verbally committed to Division I programs. This month, a few 13-year-old athletes have announced verbal commitments.
NFCA DI coaches discussed multiple proposals regarding early committing, which were introduced by the Student Athlete Experience Committee (SAEC). The “lacrosse proposal” was discussed as well which was passed by the NCAA in April 2017.
The “lacrosse proposal” is a piece of legislation that set Sept. 1 of junior year as the start date for all recruiting contact which includes unofficial visits, correspondence, telephone calls and recruiting conversations at camps and clinics.
One of the SAEC proposals set a date for when a recruit could begin taking unofficial visits. Unofficial visits are visits to college campuses by the athlete and her family at their own cost. As of now, there no start date that exists for unofficial visits but the SAEC proposed that they could use the first day of the athlete’s sophomore year in high school. Adding to that, the SAEC also proposed that recruiting conversations at camps and clinics could not take place until that same time.
As for official visits, the SAEC proposed those be moved from senior year to the opening day of classes of the junior year. Those trips are arranged and paid for by an institution and the SAEC believes it could help shift the financial responsibility from the families to the schools.
During the NFCA DI caucus in December, a straw poll was taken and the results displayed an overwhelming 200-3 in favor of the lacrosse proposal. A follow-up survey was sent out a couple weeks later. With 95 percent participation, the results were 80 percent in favor of the Sept. 1 of junior year as the beginning of contact and 84 percent favoring the lacrosse proposal over the SAEC proposal.
— NFCA (@NFCAorg) January 11, 2018
The only way for change to happen is with the NCAA legislation and outreach efforts began immediately after the conclusion of the convention. If change is made, coaches are prepared for a major shift in softball recruiting especially with the current trend of middle-schoolers verbally committing.
— Notre Dame Softball (@NDsoftball) January 11, 2018
“The biggest problem facing college softball today is early recruiting, but it is not going to change unless the coaches and the NCAA work together to make it change,” said Tennessee co-head coach and NFCA President Karen Weekly.
To express support, the NFCA has provided a petition to stop early recruiting that can be found here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfODs18uiq-VaTL08IsMt1VW6rsr5iFazOIxMcx-CBkcM22XA/viewform?usp=send_form