Coaches Oppose Move to Earlier Recruiting

SOURCE: College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America (CSCAA)

Efforts Would Have Opposite Effect In Swimming & Diving

April 16, 2019 - Colorado Springs, CO - The College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America (CSCAA), on behalf of Division I swimming & diving, is calling on the NCAA Council to exempt swimming and diving from Proposal 2018-93 when it comes up for a vote this week.

The proposal aims to place limits on early recruiting.  In swimming and diving, however, it would have the opposite effect by opening contact to recruits as early as June 15th following the sophomore year and official visits beginning 45 days later, on August 1st. 

“We applaud the Student Athlete Experience Committee’s (SAEC) efforts to reign in early recruiting, but proposal 2018-93 does so at the expense of sports doing it well.” stated CSCAA Executive Director Greg Earhart.  “Unfortunately, for sports like swimming and diving, it moves the starting line even earlier.”

Three years ago, swimming and diving had very few early commitments. A 2017 change to the NCAA recruiting rules opened the floodgates by allowing coaches to contact juniors.  The result has been an explosion of early commitments, a result that has come at great expense.

“Looking at the transfer portal,” explained one Division I assistant, “it is obvious a lot of athletes are not happy.”  Another Power 5 assistant coach added that they are now, “asking an 18 or 19-year-old to transfer because they made the wrong decision at 15 or 16.”

The change has also taken a toll on the coaching profession.  According to the CSCAA, the number of coaches leaving the sport is rising.  “Our coaches, especially single-gender programs, are overwhelmed,” explained Earhart.  Last year, twenty-nine Division I head coaches resigned or were let go.  So far fourteen have followed them this year. According to Earhart, a high school junior who commits to a school now has less than a 50% chance that they will have the same coach as a junior in college.

The CSCAA is calling for an exemption for swimming and diving.  According to Samantha Barany the CSCAA’s Director of Legislative and Member Services, several conferences have stated they will support a proposed exemption.  “The more sport administrators learn and the more they see the evidence, the more they recognize that this isn’t appropriate for all sports. While the recruiting model has merit, the timeline is not a one-size-fits-all.”

The CSCAA’s position is supported by the NCAA’s own research along with the majority of Division I swimming and diving coaches, current NCAA swimmers and prospective student-athletes and their coaches.

College Coaches: Near-Universal Opposition

In a March survey of Division I head swimming coaches, 156 of 164 (95.1%) opposed the proposal citing lack of  physical maturation, academic preparation, and physiological development of prospective student-athletes.  Coaches also noted the risk associated with hosting 15-year-olds on official visits.  Single-gender programs, which are limited to two swimming coaches, also felt this proposal unfairly advantaged combined programs, which may employ up to five coaches.

One Power 5 coach explained, “I have been recruiting for 30 years and the stress and anxiety that these young people are feeling is at an all-time high.  Juniors have voiced how stressed out they are about having to make decisions so early. 

Current Student Athletes: Why Change A Good Thing?

A SAEC survey of 15,000 student-athletes showed that swimming and diving already enjoys some of the highest rates of satisfaction with the recruiting process.  More than 80% of swimmers and divers rated the recruiting experience as a positive one.

“Swimmers and divers already have some of the latest start and commitment dates,” explained Barany, “the research put forward by the SAEC makes the case that delayed recruiting leads to better outcomes for coaches, teams and prospects.”

In addition to having one of the lowest transfer rates (5.4% of men and 4.9% of women) of all NCAA sports, SAEC’s survey revealed swimming and diving coaches were largely honest in their dealing with recruits.  Over 85% of swimmers and divers agreed that their role on a team was conveyed accurately during the process.  Opening the recruiting process, according to Texas A&M swimmer Jake Gibbons, threatens that.

“As a swimmer myself, I am concerned that this proposed rule would be detrimental to the development of athletes and collegiate programs,” explained Gibbons who is the Chair of the SEC’s SAAC. “I believe it will encourage predatory recruiting practices that would exploit the immaturity of young PSAs and ultimately lead to less cohesion on college teams and higher transfer rates across the country.”

Prospective Student-Athletes and Coaches: Too Much Too Soon

The CSCAA’s opposition to early recruiting is supported by most of the swimming world.  USA Swimming, the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association (NISCA) and American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA), all offered statements in opposition of 2018-93 and in support of swimming and diving’s request for an exemption.

NISCA President Diane Hicks-Hughes feels the legislation pressures prospective student-athletes to make a decision before being able assess their academic readiness.  Few sophomores take college entrance exams and those who do typically see significant increases as juniors.  “High school students are under many pressures today academically, athletically, and as a result of everything that goes with adolescence,” she noted.  “This legislation moves these pressures even earlier, when the student-athlete is even less prepared to handle them.”

Earlier recruiting is resulting in parents placing pressure on coaches to impress college recruiters, by adding weights and doubles at an earlier age.  ASCA Executive John Leonard noted that parents increasingly circumvent coaches by hiring personal trainers, enrolling swimmers in CrossFit or taking nutritional supplements, “all in the hopes of making an impression at an early age.”

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