|Chris Mack says more changes are needed but the new system is an improvement. (Getty Images)|
Dan Hurley landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Sunday at 7 a.m., after a five-hour flight from Las Vegas. The new head coach at Rhode Island still had an entire day of basketball to watch in New York City, before the final July evaluation period ended Sunday at 5 p.m.
Only days earlier, Hurley had flown from Philadelphia to Vegas on a 5:30 a.m. flight after taking in an AAU tournament in Atlantic City. Of course, Hurley didn't sleep after either of these flights, meaning there were two separate times in a four-day span that Hurley went nearly 40 hours without more than an hour or two of sleep.
"Red eyes or 5:30 a.m. [flights]," Hurley said. "It's brutal."
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Unfortunately, Hurley's lack of sleep and difficult travel schedule aren't uncommon for coaches around the country this month. When the NCAA made numerous rules changes last October, one of the biggest adjustments was the July recruiting calendar. Instead of two 10-day periods, the NCAA went to three four-day sessions lasting from Wednesday at 5 p.m. to Sunday at 5 p.m.
The change was designed to get rid of the marathon-like periods in July and make it more manageable. Because players -- and coaches, parents and scouts -- were exhausted by the end of the month, fewer days were expected to keep everyone fresh and healthy.
At the time, most coaches liked the change. Just look at what a couple of coaches told CBSSports.com back in October.
Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon: "I think it's far better."
George Mason coach Paul Hewitt: "It's a very positive step for the kids that are playing."
While many coaches still like it -- Indiana's Tom Crean and Memphis' Josh Pastner spoke highly of the changes to us -- it hasn't really worked as intended. The final evaluation period featured -- at least in Las Vegas -- plenty of fatigued players and sleep-deprived coaches who had been tracking the same players for 15 of the past 21 days. While the NCAA wanted three four-day periods, it essentially became three five-day periods. Wednesday only had three or four games, and Sunday ended early, but it was still five days of basketball crammed into a 48-hour span.
Most college coaches and AAU teams didn't go home until Sunday night, while some had to wait until Monday depending on flight availability. They then had one or two days at home before heading out to the next tournament locale on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. There was time to unpack, do laundry and repack before it was time to leave again.
"I disliked it but it's necessary," Mississippi State coach Rick Ray said. "We need those days 'in' to work our [current] guys out, [but] I did not like all of the going and coming. I was out Wednesday to Sunday, so I was only in for two days. They need to make Sunday or Wednesday a full day instead of half-days. You go on those half-days and you see a kid play once. It's not worth it."
There was no break, no downtime. No time to recharge the batteries and prepare for the next session. Sure, the two 10-day sessions of previous Julys were long and exhausting, but there was nearly a full week in between the sessions to rest and catch up on sleep.
"It's still too long," Nebraska coach Tim Miles said, suggesting two seven-day periods with a week of rest between the sessions.
Illinois State coach Dan Muller's thought is to have six days on, eight days off and six days on -- but the idea is the basically the same: a longer break is necessary.
The shortened periods also made it much more difficult to attend multiple events in the same week -- provided you didn't have a private plane to transport you around the country. In previous years, a coach -- or recruiting writer -- could spend a few days in Las Vegas and then head to Orlando to finish out the period. Now, a day of travel is taking away a good chunk of the evaluation time. As Hurley's itinerary demonstrated, this meant a lot of 36-hour days and flights departing when the sun was down.
"I'm concerned about traveling in July and properly evaluating guys," Towson coach Pat Skerry said. "I would also like to see four guys out on Friday, Saturday and Sunday."
When the NCAA announced its calendar changes, it did so with the right intentions. Ten-day sessions were far too long and an adjustment certainly needed to be made. With the consolidated periods, though, there were too many events running concurrent to each other, in locales inconvenient to one another. Moreover, too many events meant most tournaments were watered down in terms of talent.
Is the new way better than previous years? Likely, but that doesn't mean it's perfect.
"Compared to 20 days, I loved it," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "Are there better options? Probably. But compared to what we had, I loved it. [They] need to let all four coaches on at the same time. It needs to change."
"It's harder to get around in July with all the events, but I would take this over the last couple of years," Rutgers coach Mike Rice added.
The majority of coaches we spoke to over the past month thought there were better ways of organizing the calendar, but after pushing to get rid of the two 10-day sessions, they're caught in a predicament. Do they risk going back to the old way of doing things?
Either way, my guess is they're all getting some much-needed sleep first.