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Emmert: Opposition to recruiting deregulation 'crazy,' 'insane'

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. -- NCAA president Mark Emmert called recent pushback against recruiting deregulation “crazy” and “insane” Wednesday while speaking at the Football Bowl Association annual meetings.

Specifically, Emmert expressed concern that proposed legislation to allow unlimited communication with football recruits was now being reviewed by the NCAA board of directors. The board was asked to review the proposals after what was termed “significant membership feedback” last month. Recruiting deregulation is part of Emmert's reform agenda.

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“[The] counting of phone calls and text messages and emails … is frankly crazy,” Emmert told a group of bowl executives. “Literally, you have to hire someone to count your cell phone calls and to look at your phone records.”

Rules Working Group proposal 13-3 regarding communications with prospects was overridden last month. The RWG recommended to the board that it suspend two other proposals regarding liberalized recruiting and printed materials. In January, the board adopted 25 recruiting deregulations by the RWG. They cut 25 pages from the NCAA's complex manual as part of Emmert's reform agenda.

Critics are concerned that parts of the RWG's recruiting deregulations would create an “arms race” in recruiting. However, eliminating phone restrictions were seen as a common-sense approach given modern technology. If a recruit doesn't want to answer a phone call or text, he/she can simply ignore it.

The NCAA pointed out in an earlier release that football coaches are already allowed unlimited phone contact during the fall contact period. The release stated, “given this, the practical impact of RWG-13-3 will be to permit unlimited calls for only a few additional months.”

Coaches couldn't plead ignorance to the 25 proposals that were put forth in February. The language of the new rules was available at any point. The proposals were developed from a group that includes the Big 12 commissioner (Bob Bowlsby), Clemson president (Jim Barker) and SEC associate commissioner (Greg Sankey). The Big Ten coaches and ADs protested the changes, but their own associate commissioner for compliance (Chad Hawley) was on the Rules Working Group (RWG).

“It shouldn't have been a surprise,” Emmert told reporters afterward, “but in some cases it was.”

At least 75 Division I members had to weigh in by March 20 to force an override vote of the legislation. Emmert blamed football coaches for the pushback saying, “it's insane.”

The RWG was charged with deregulating a sport that had been bloated with unenforceable rules. Several coaches expressed concern over parents and recruits being overwhelmed by text and phone calls. However, similar legislation was developed in basketball with input from the National Association of Basketball Coaches. NABC executive director Jim Haney is a member of the Rules Working Group.

“The [football] coaches said, ‘No, no, no,' Emmert said of unlimited communications with recruits. “We had just put in place a rule change exactly like that with the basketball coaches. The basketball coaches are now operating under that same rule. You don't [have to] count text messages. You don't [have to] count phone calls."

Other Emmert comments from Wednesday:

-- “You'd come to the conclusion that intercollegiate athletics is on its last legs, that [litigation against the NCAA] is going to destroy intercollegiate athletics … When you look at things objectively … without some sort of emotion, intercollegiate athletics has never been stronger … The reality is that the NCAA, this very weird organization, is actually performing extremely well.”

-- On why he shouldn't be thought of as a commissioner: “I have more audiences think I'm Roger Goodell or David Stern. Think about the president of the NCAA. Think of [me as] the secretary-general of the United Nations.”

-- “[The NCAA is] a self-governing body. They make the rules. They make the regulations. They decide what should be enforced. My job is to implement what they want. When people say, ‘Emmert, why did you make that rule?' Emmert doesn't make rules. Nobody in my office makes rules.”

-- “It's a membership organization which is clumsy, which occasionally moves too slow, which occasionally moves too fast, can occasionally be very aggravating. But it is also an enormously successful century-old experiment in self-government.”

-- “There is a mythology around college sport that is just so wrong. The majority of Americans based on what they read and see ... [think] every university plays sports because they get so rich playing college sports. The single biggest issue on the majority of presidents minds is, ‘How can I afford to keep doing this?'"

-- On conference realignment: “At the end of the day the new conference landscape, while it was painful to go through, wasn't the nightmare scenario that people were describing. When the smoke all cleared, some of the conferences made sense.”


Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.
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