The NCAA has issued a new rules interpretation this week that begins to address some of the recruiting concerns raised by football coaches in recent years.
Effective immediately, a prospective student-athlete with plans to enroll at an institution in January of their senior year may sign a financial aid agreement with a school as early as August 1. The rule applies to all sports, but will have the greatest impact on football; where coaches can get early enrollees involved in spring practice to advance their development.
Check the legalese below, from the NCAA's Legislative Services Database.
The academic and membership affairs staff determined that a prospective student-athlete who intends to graduate from high school midyear and enroll at a member institution midyear during the same academic year (e.g., spring semester) may sign an institutional financial aid agreement on or after August 1 of his or her senior year, provided the institution issuing the financial aid agreement establishes, prior to issuing the agreement, that the prospective student-athlete is enrolled in all coursework necessary to graduate from high school at midyear.
[References: NCAA Division I Bylaws 13.9.2 (letter of intent restriction) and 22.214.171.124 (written offer of aid before signing date); and a staff interpretation (12/15/04, Item No. 1a), which has been archived]
Football coaches have been asking for an early signing period for some time, hoping to calm some of the recruiting madness that conflicts with game preparation during the season. By issuing a new interoperation of the rules, the NCAA gave the coaches some of what they wanted without having to endure the lengthy, and often unsuccessful, process of passing new legislation.
John Infante, of The Bylaw Blog, pointed out that midyear enrollees still cannot sign a National Letter of Intent, but the aid agreement at least gives coaches something more than a verbal commitment.