clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How a new NCAA rule hurt high school coaches and players

There’s got to be a better way.

NCAA Men's Final Four - Previews Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Are you a high school coach in any way associated with a potential recruit? Well, it just became a lot tougher for you to get a college job.

The NCAA has approved one rule directly relating to high school coaches and tabled another one. The one that passed governs when high school coaches can be hired and to what positions in the college ranks.

That rule, bylaw 11.4, reads like this:

In football, during a two-year period before a prospective student-athlete's anticipated enrollment and a two-year period after the prospective student-athlete's actual enrollment, an institution shall not employ (or enter into a contract for future employment with) an individual associated with the prospective student-athlete in any athletics department noncoaching staff position or in a strength and conditioning staff position.

This definition includes, but is not limited to, parents, legal guardians, handlers, personal trainers and coaches. An individual who meets this definition retains such status during the enrollment of the prospective student-athlete at the institution.

Essentially, it means that anyone associated with a prospect cannot be hired as a non-field coach within two years of the prospect’s signing (read: high school coaches primarily). That is a very limiting rule since there are only nine on-field coaching positions. And if you do hire a high school coach, he can’t recruit a prospect from his former school for two years.

The intent here is simple: to prevent bigger schools from creating sham jobs that high school coaches can fill and then the college gain an advantage in recruiting.

There are a couple of recent prominent examples of college programs hiring high school coaches for on-field roles that come to mind. While he didn’t end up being hired in the end, Michigan wouldn’t have been able to entertain Michael Johnson Sr. in the way it did just a few months ago if the rule was already in place.

Former Miami coach Al Golden also hired Ice Harris, a South Florida legend who had led Booker T. Washington high school to three state championships.

The move was seen as a recruiting-first one to help the ‘Canes shore up local ties. When Golden was fired, Mark Richt didn’t retain Harris.

You can see how the rule would hamper a distinct advantage a particular former high school would have, and therefore make someone a less desirable hire for a college job.

But the problem is some of these non-coaching positions aren’t shams. There are analyst jobs, quality control posts, and grad assistant roles that are on-ramps to the college coaching profession but will no longer be available to some people.

Some high school coaches aren’t qualified enough yet to be on the field at the college level, and now the NCAA has cut off a simple way for them to work their way into one of those positions.

And it’s not the only thing the NCAA tried to do.

This one (bylaw, 5) doesn’t hurt upward mobility as much as it hurts general coaching development and general development of players. Thankfully it was tabled:

Employment as a Speaker in an Institutional Camp or Clinic — Football. An institution shall not employ (either on a salaried or a volunteer basis) a speaker in any football camp or clinic (including a coaches clinic or a camp or clinic involving nonprospects) who is involved in coaching prospective student-athletes or is associated with a prospective student-athlete as a result of the prospective student-athlete's participation in football. Such an individual may be employed as a camp counselor (except as prohibited in Bylaw, but may not perform speaking duties other than those normally associated with camp counselor duties (e.g., skill instruction).

Had it have been passed, coaches could still go to these camps in the summer, but compensation is a nice boost for coaches in states where high school football coaches aren’t paid that much. It would, in theory, limit the amount of coaches who could attend these camps and that limits the players who attend them. Coaches often are able to give their players a lift to these camps in lieu of parents who have to work their regular jobs. Sometimes coaches take players by the busload. And many times the money to pay for meals on these trips comes from the high school coach.

At these camps, players are drilled on specific skills and can get better in the offseason. They are also sometimes the first and only time that a college coach can get to see a player compete in person, and camps are often a prerequisite for coaches to give a scholarship offer to a recruit. The big schools likely wouldn’t have a problem, but any limitation on recruiting exposure for small high schools or colleges isn’t good for the game.

Nick Saban, for one, wasn’t pleased about it:

“We just had over a thousand coaches here at a clinic and had a great camp, which is the way that I feel we serve the high school coaches and have a chance to give back to them for all that they do in terms of the hard work that they do in developing players, helping us be able to evaluate players, giving us information about their players. Guess we can’t do anything. I really, I don’t get it, and I don’t understand it.”

Plus, this rule would only increase the involvement of the third parties who do not have the best interest of the player at heart. The NCAA does not want these folks to be involved with a player’s recruiting.

Any solutions?

Well, for the camp rule, a simple solution would be just to cap compensation levels and you’re done right there. Some reasonable travel expense reimbursement plus an hourly wage seems fair.

But for the hiring of coaches, you’d probably have to get creative with ways to get around it. A mandatory contract period for a hired high school coach sounds good in theory, but it likely wouldn’t work in practicum because of the amount of turnover in the industry with head coaches and a need to clean house when a new head coach takes over.

A defined coaching development role that’s off the field and perhaps limited to only on-campus recruiting or something of that ilk could be a workable fix. You could cap the number of positions so numbers don’t get unruly.

Either way, there has to be a better, more nuanced way to work around the issue. A preemptive nuclear option doesn’t quite seem like it’s the right move.