Candid Coaches: Will the NCAA's new rules and calendar make recruiting better or worse in college hoops?

CBS Sports college basketball writers Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander surveyed more than 100 coaches for our annual Candid Coaches series. They polled everyone from head coaches at elite programs to assistants at some of the smallest Division I schools. In exchange for complete anonymity, the coaches provided unfiltered honesty about a number of topics in the sport. Over the next couple of weeks, we'll be posting the results on 10 questions we asked them. 

Let's stop to recognize something remarkable: It's possible, if not actual, that college basketball has never undergone more widespread, consequential change in a two-year span like what it's in the midst of now.

For starters, the way the NCAA Tournament will be built and analyzed by the selection committee is seriously changing -- for the better. And of course, the FBI's ongoing case into nefarious college basketball recruiting is unprecedented in major college athletics. That alone has changed the rulebook, even outside college basketball, in a significant way. Without question college hoops' climate and direction today is markedly different from how things operated less than two years ago.

Those new rules -- catalyzed by the Commission on College Basketball, which coaches overwhelmingly view as a failure -- include big renovations to the recruiting calendar. Starting in 2019, coaches will have to attend high school-type camps in June, only be allowed one weekend with non-scholastic/tournament basketball in early July, and will wrap up each summer by attending elite camps that will involve approximately 2,500 of the top rising sophomores, juniors and seniors in high school basketball.  

With that in mind, and with this topic being the overwhelming point of discussion on the road at grassroots tournaments July, we asked coaches: 

Will the NCAA's new legislation and calendar make the recruiting experience better, worse or approximately the same for a) coaches and b) prospects? 

peachjam.jpg
CBS Sports / Mike Meredith

For coaches

Worse

66 percent

Same

31 percent

Better

3 percent


For prospects

Worse

68 percent

Same

30 percent

Better

2 percent

Quotes that stood out

Those who say it's worse ...

  • "Very opinionated on this one. The new calendar is good for the Power 5 and bad for kids and non-Power 5s. The main reason it's bad for kids is they're losing out on exposure. People say they're not, but they are. They point to the number of days not being a lot different. What is being lost is the number of times we can watch them play. AAU events are great for mid-majors because we can see kids play against good competition all under one roof. Even though the packets cost a lot, it's going to cost more to send coaches to high schools events all over the country. We have at minimum 3-4 kids every year that we found and evaluated in AAU ball. We needed July. Kids will get overlooked and dreams will be lost. The budgets of mid- and low-major programs simply won't allow as much travel. Not to mention D-II. Don't forget they all have 10 full scholarships as well. This calendar will impact far more kids and families in a negative way than it will help clean up the wrongs of the few. This hurts kids and will cost coaches jobs. As for the majority of kids, they WANT to play in July. They look forward to it. All around this was a knee-jerk response to the FBI probe and it's about optics. Not substance."
  • "All this does is take even more time away from our own players. Plus, now coaches are going to be trying to set up high school coaches to host events and get certain teams to come. Then in July, there is no way that staffs are going to be able to cover the ton of events that will all be running at the same time all across the country. Worse for the low-major prospects, less opportunities to get seen by different colleges because we won't be able to cover all of the July events to see multiple prospects. Then in June, it will limit those prospects being seen by local colleges only. Blue-chippers won't be hurt at all because of a thing called private planes."
  • "I do not think the NCAA was thinking about the 99 percent of prospects when they made a majority of the changes."
  • "A little bit of the old and some of the new, I'm actually OK with that. What I worry about is the left liberal socialist vs. the right capitalist. The system is a capitalist society. Whether it be shoe companies, agents, AAU, high school coaches, college coaches, guys want a reward. They either want the best teams or a financial reward. They compete to get to Peach Jam. Or if they can't make the Under Armour finals, they're not good enough. It's the American way, and I think it works. And yet you want socialized recruiting. You want somebody to set up camps. First of all, I don't think it's going to work because there's not as much incentive for them to work at it. Who's going to comb the fields of Alabama and Arkansas to find it? And this whole third-party thing? The world is a third party. To say the AAU guys were the one f------ up college basketball? Sorry, no. They're not the ones. I worry about the little guys. Mid-majors, low majors, because those guys need to see who's the fifth, sixth, ninth man on those AAU teams. Those kids come off the bench and have a good game, they're getting scholarships. It's not going to affect me at [power SEC school]."
  • "I think it's going to be worse. The people deciding on this change never sat down with anyone in grassroots to help with the format. The fact that we will have to go out at least once each month means less time with our team and less time with families. Also the new format of the regional camps limits the players who aren't on the radar of certain schools. Think about how many kids who may be low-to-mid D-I, D-II or D-III caliber who get a chance to play in front of coaches at events like Great American Shootout, AAU Nationals or Best of the South that won't get that opportunity anymore."
  • "The calendar is not as big a deal as the actual tournaments. If the goal is to limit shoe-company influence, then only certify events that operate within dictated criteria. College basketball needs a commissioner. If you want to curb cheating, a commissioner can have a deputy commission or a panel that would review cases where cheating is involved and start making coaches sit out entire seasons for infractions. Also, if a coach leaves a program for any reason -- fired, leaving for another job, suspended for a year due to cheating -- then anyone on that roster can transfer be immediately eligible. It will make ADs and presidents think a little harder about firing guys after three seasons and put more value on getting the right guy who does not bring the threat of cheating that might come with him."
  • "It could be really, really bad. I think this hurts the prospects, gives guys in small towns or rural areas less exposure. Those guys won't be seen as much. I'm worried about the Murray States, the OVC and Southland schools. I was at that level and know how hard it is to find those guys. So if I don't know how to see guys, how can I make the time to see the guys I have to see? How will I budget to do this if I don't have the resources to do so?"
  • "I think there's a great opportunity for it to be worse. My career's spanned all levels of college basketball, so for me, being at [Big East school], let's take the camps. How does that benefit Idaho State or Southern Utah? The kids that are there, how are these other schools that are D-I but not privy to the same kind of talent we may be privy to, how are they going to be successful? What purpose does that do for people like that? When they talk about all these kids invited for these camps, who votes on that? If you're kid 1,001 and I'm at Drake, for instance, if there's a kid that's really good and I don't want other coaches to see, am I going to vote for him? I don't know how that cleans up the things that brought us to this point. These changes, to some degree, they allow for more mistakes in recruiting."
  • "For coaches, less is more. No one wants to have to go to these things. Now you're opening up a different month you have to be recruiting, it's a lot. They can try to regulate all they want, but the same guys who are around and making decisions, they're going to have the same influence. You can't snuff these dudes out. They're intelligent and operate a different way within the rules."
  • "I think it will make it worse, as far as level of functionality and level of basketball. Nike EYBL, Under Armor Association and Adidas Uprising all presented really good environments for us to evaluate players. The venues were centralized during an event. One week, one gym. Usually nice facilities. Food provided for coaches. Packets were right. There was some flow in those leagues. I don't think that the three sneaker companies should've been messed with. The off-brand, fly-by-night AAU events were the ones with 10 different gyms, dangerous court setups, no hospitality for coaches, wrong names and numbers in books. They just want our money and to pack as many kids and coaches in those gyms. I have no sympathy that those events are GONE. I'm anxious to see the flow of this new method. The camps are a concern of mine. I know for a fact there aren't 1,100 good enough seniors in most regions. So I think we are getting ready to see some god-awful basketball. No plays, no chemistry, no defensive cohesiveness. Taking me away from my family in June to watch this shit. Thanks, NCAA."

Those who say it's about the same ...

  • "I think it will be approximately the same for coaches. The April change is not significant, just means more in-homes in April, which can be helpful. We will have to navigate June -- that will require some more time on the road but ultimately can be good -- and less evaluation in July will be a good thing. I think overall it helps the coaches and prospects."
  • "It'll be the same. We adapted from the last rule change. People bitched about condensing July to three weeks as opposed to two 10-day stretches. Eventually we're going to conform and business is going to be conducted as usual."
  • "I think it won't change the recruiting experience much. As a mid-major coach, so much of our recruiting is now done in the spring and the late signing period that the AAU events are taken out of it anyway. Transfers and grad transfers have changed recruiting more for us than any calendar change."
  • "For coaches, it will create new challenges, not necessarily more difficult ones. Coaches will always figure out ways to adapt. .... Not part of the question, but this will greatly benefit people who run scouting services, or other third parties, as their value automatically increases with limited access by coaches."
  • "As coaches, we will adapt to whatever changes are made in recruiting rules. However, I do feel STRONGLY that these changes were implemented with the high-major programs in mind and they will be the ones who benefit. The rest of us will scramble around and make it work. You didn't ask, but I feel the main reason the rule was changed to save the NIKE Peach Jam is just that: NIKE. The big-time Nike coaches have a lot of pull. And, to a lesser degree, they didn't want to give up their Nike event golf tournament in Augusta. Most mid- and low-majors have completely stopped, or are spending little time and resources, attending the Peach Jam because it is so geared to the high-major programs. As for prospects, I feel this is going to limit opportunities for potential borderline or late-bloomers to be seen."

One coach who said it's better ...

  • "The one thing I do like is that it's a positive with their high school, that you get a better idea of what kind of teammate is he, how much character is there. His high school coach can keep him more accountable. With AAU, they don't practice as much, the coach might not hold him accountable. In high school, with a team concept, I think that will help us."

The takeaway

I know there's more quotes featured above than normal, but I did that to hammer home just how passionate coaches are on this topic. What you see above represents about 35 percent of the elongated responses and dialogue we had in reporting this out.

The way the sport is recruited will be drastically changing, and even if you want to say coaches are overreacting because change is always hard, they're not going to take it quietly. At least privately. Some of the themes hit on by coaches echo their criticisms in our poll question from Wednesday, when they derided the very existence on the Commission on College Basketball. Ultimately, even though the National Association of Basketball Coaches was working in concert with the Commission, an overwhelming majority of coaches I spoke with in July, and in the aftermath of the new rules coming out, expressed cynicism at how the NABC operates. They tossed off the organization as an out-of-touch bureaucratic body with too few voices speaking for thousands in the profession.

With the new rules, as evidenced above, coaches with good jobs had much more concern not just for themselves, but for the small schools and the lesser-known players. Given that these were all quotes provided anonymously, I found that a little surprising and refreshing. These men could have easily not gone to bat for the small guys, but that's not really how college basketball works. Because almost all coaches at the top 50-type programs now, they started low on the ladder.

They know what it's like to make a meager salary, to scrape through for three, four, even sometimes 10 years before finding comfort and financial stability in the profession. Those same coaches fear a major class divide, even bigger than what exists now, is coming. The richest schools will be enabled to adapt to the new regulations, while those outside power conferences will scramble and gamble -- and likely miss out on evaluations.

Prospects from less populated areas won't be scouted or seen as much in 2019 the way they were in 2018, 2017, 2007 or before. If those low-level players don't perform well in the condensed April non-scholastic period, they could easily miss out on life-changing opportunities. 

And that, in my estimation, is going to lead to a spike in the transfer numbers by 2021. If coaches think the transfer trend is out of control now (with 600-700 players leaving one school for another annually), give it a couple years. More camp settings, less chemistry as a result. Hey, maybe there's a great story or two eventually about how a kid was left for D-II on the outskirts, only to be found at the last minute and then go on to become a D-I star. Maybe. But that's less likely to happen going forward than it was in the old system. 

And that story isn't worth the trade for what's coming. 

The top 75-or-so programs with busty budgets will probably operate without much of a hitch. They'll gripe about the adjustments but ultimately be able to get things done similar to how they have been. It's the other 275 schools that will no longer get cost-effective options in the summer. 

As one coach put it to me: "The beauty of July is that each staff gets to decide where they want to go and spend their money and time. They can spread out or stack up on a few events. That is what makes it fun, that we all, deep down, enjoy competing and finding the next Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Paul George, Stephen Curry, etc."

Those kinds of players changed the perception of their universities and enhanced the lives of their teammates and coaches. But those stories are probably going to be harder to come by, and it's being done at the expense of "fixing" the sport. 

It's plausible to suggest that within the next five years we'll look up and see a major recruiting scandal in college basketball. If/when that happens, a lot of the skepticism of today will turn into told-you-sos by then. And the biggest question will remain: Is all this worth it?

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CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning senior writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his eighth season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics,... Full Bio

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