“From its inception, the NCAA regulated both on-field competition (most immediately the growing risk of injury associated with football) and off-field matters of recruiting and money. The new organization’s rule on amateurism was clear. Universities could not offer scholarships or other money based on athletic ability” (Yen, p. 595).
The NCAA tried to uphold these ideals of amateurism in sport on college campuses, but it was undeniably handed a Sisyphean task. Under-the-table payments, “special” jobs provided by alumni and even, heaven forbid, “scholarships” made it abundantly clear that both the universities and their coaches would do anything to secure athletic victory––and reap all of the benefits that came with it.
By 1948, the NCAA instituted the so-called “Sanity Code,” which on its surface, gave the NCAA power to “expel member schools for violations” (Yen, p. 596).
‘The Code permitted limited athletic scholarships and off-campus recruiting, but the NCAA’s member institutions refused to enforce the very code they had adopted” (Yen, p. 596).
By 1950, the NCAA membership “considered the cases of the so-called ‘Seven Sinners,’ seven institutions who voluntarily admitted to breaking the rules. In defense, one of the Seven Sinners, the University of Virginia, argued that the scholarship limitations of the Sanity Code were unreasonable because athletes could not play football, work at a job and keep up with the school. The NCAA membership responded by refusing to expel the Seven Sinners, in part because many institutions felt it unfair to punish those who publicly admitted breaking the rules while many others continued to break the rules secretly” (Yen, p. 596).
This led to the repeal of the Sanity Code in 1951.
And Mr. Smith admits there are several things he doesn’t know yet, either. However, there are a couple of things he would change about the early recruiting process. First of all, he believes that only when a player enters her freshman year in high school should communication start both ways.
“I think freshmen can start to call and receive emails through their club coaches or high school coaches from a collegiate coach and I think that interaction is okay. I think parents have to manage how often their kid is going to call coaches every week. I would say, as a freshman, you can call the same coach once per month.
“If a girl is going to a summer camp up until eighth or ninth grade, you can’t stop that but the communications––in terms of emails and phone calls––should not be accepted until that player is in her freshman year of high school. I would change it to that because eighth grade is still early. They are still babies!”
The other change Mr. Smith would like to see is to have the colleges and universities themselves be required to be more vested when it comes to early recruiting.
“As a sophomore a player should start receiving official visits because families can go broke [doing it on their own]. My feeling is that the NCAA should allow official visits and they should allow up to five per recruit. So, as a sophomore, when girls are really starting to get into it, they don’t have to have their family fly them across the country to go visit. If a school is really that interested it should need to burn one of its visits on this kid because now I think it really tightens up the game. It makes the coaches and the programs more accountable. They love us to come on unofficial visits because they have no skin in the game.”
And Mr. Smith is not alone in his recommendations for change like this at the NCAA level. In his article titled “Early Scholarship Offers and the NCAA” (Boston College Law Review, Volume 52, Issue 2), Alfred Yen argues some similar points, putting the onus on the schools themselves.
“This Article responds to the problem by suggesting that the NCAA take a radically different approach to regulating early recruiting. Instead of making largely futile efforts to prevent institutions and recruits from making early informal scholarship deals, the NCAA should allow them to make formal binding ones. There would, however, be strings attached. For every year before a recruit’s senior year in which an institution offers a binding commitment, the institution must guarantee the scholarship for an additional year. Thus a senior would get a one-year scholarship (the present practice), a junior a two-year scholarship, a sophomore three, and a freshman four. These scholarships would be guaranteed, regardless of whether the student plays the sport for the university, and they would further count against the scholarship limitations for the sport in question” (Yen, p. 589).