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SoCalHoops Recruiting News

NCAA: An End To Post-Grad Prep
School Recruiting? Maybe. . . --(Apr. 13, 2001)

This past Tuesday, April 10, 2001, the NCAA Management Council forwarded on to the NCAA Board of Directors several items of new legislation for consideration by the Board.  While the NCAA legislative process isn't easy to understand, in a nutshell, the Management Council considers ideas for proposed legislation, appoints committees to study them, and when it feels it has enough information about a topic, proposes one or more sets of new amendments to the NCAA Bylaws to the Board of Directors.   If the Board approves the legislation, it is passed on to the general membership (i.e., all the representatives from the member institutions), voted on at the annual convention, and if passed, it gets adopted as a rule.    Basically.

So, when the Management Council passed along several items of new legislation to the Board of Directors of the NCAA for consideration, it was by no means the final step in the process.  But a few proposals related to the NCAA's new look at revising the rules regarding amatuerism, together with the NCAA's attempts to redefine the Men's Division I Basketball recruiting calendar caught our eye.

Some of the proposals have received pretty wide coverage in the media, but others haven't.  One proposal which has received widespread coverage has been the proposed change to the rules regarding allowing student-athletes to accept educational expenses to attend post-high school (prep school) institutions (see, proposed amendment 2000-47-1).   But tied to that seeminly reasonable rule change (which would prohibit agents, professional sports teams and organizations and boosters from paying for such educational expenses) is another proposed rule change (99-106-1) which could conceivably change the way many in basketball recruiting circles use post-grad prep schools.  Here's the gist of the proposed legislation which would: 

Establish an organized competition rule that provides that prospective student-athletes who compete in organized athletics for one year or less after high school graduation or discontinuation of high-school enrollment would lose one season of NCAA eligibility and need to fulfill one academic year in residence. Prospects who participate in more than one year of organized athletics following graduation or discontinuation of high school enrollment would forfeit all Division I eligibility

The complete text of the rule is set out below (and can also be found at this link).   We read it slowly and carefully, and if it means what it says, then those who currently propose the use of prep school as an alternative or way of getting an additional year "for free" without starting the NCAA eligibility clock will have to dream up a new loophole.  Quite literally, this rule would change the way some involved in recruiting use post-grad prep schools to eliminate the "extra year" concept entirely.

Currently in recruiting, post-graduate prep schools are used to allow a player to spend an additional year beyond the year or more after he would normally have graduated from high school concentrating on improving strength, and SAT-ACT test scores, and, if a player fails to graduate from high school, possibly even improving a core GPA.  Not to make this too complex for those who don't want to delve too deeply, the NCAA says that once a player enrolls at a four-year institution, that player has 5 years within which to complete a total of four years of collegiate eligibility.   Likewise, players who sign National Letters of Intent, cannot void their letter and thus can't change their minds about attending one institution if a college coach that recruited them is fired or leaves.  There have been several documented instances of players intentionally failing to graduate high school in order to void a NLI when the college refused to release the player, and for such players, a prep school is one answer in order to obtain the high school diploma.  For those who have not been recruited, or who have not received offers they've been satisfied with, prep schools have been touted as a way of engaging in an additional year of organized basketball on the east coast (thus opening up whole new vistas of recruiting by east coast colleges who follow the tougher prep schools for prospects), without starting that "eligibility clock" running.   

And it's that latter loophole  in the eligibility clock that this current legislation seems designed to close off.  Under 99-106-1, if a player

Here's what the new rules says:

Intent: To specify that a prospect who engages in organized competition for more than one year after the prospect's first opportunity to enroll in a collegiate institution following the expected date of his or her high-school class or who engages in the competition more than one year following discontinuation of high-school enrollment shall lose all eligibility in the applicable sport.

A. Bylaws: Amend 99-106-A, 14.2.3.2, as follows:

"14.2.3.2 Participation in Organized Competition Prior to Initial Collegiate Enrollment. In Division I, subsequent to the date that the prospective student-athlete's high-school class normally graduates (or the international equivalent as specified in the NCAA Guide to International Academic Standards for Athletics Eligibility), the prospect shall enroll full-time in a collegiate institution at his or her first opportunity in order to be immediately eligible and retain the opportunity for four seasons of competition upon initial, full-time collegiate enrollment. The prospect also must meet all applicable NCAA, institutional and conference eligibility requirements. A prospect who does not enroll in a collegiate institution as a full-time student at the first opportunity following his or her expected high-school graduation shall be subject to the following:

"(a)

The prospect shall be charged with a one season of intercollegiate competition for each during the calendar year or sport season subsequent to the prospect's first opportunity to enroll (i.e., from the time that the high-school class normally graduates through the immediate summer) and prior to full-time collegiate enrollment during which he or she has participated in organized competition (per 14.2.3.2.2).

[14.2.3.2-(b) unchanged]

"(c)

A prospect who engages in organized competition for more than one year following the next opportunity to enroll after graduation of his or her expected high-school class or for more than one year following discontinuation of high-school enrollment shall be ineligible in that sport."

Now this is pretty cut and dried stuff.  It was originally designed to implement post-high school participation in professional sports, i.e., allow a player to "test the waters" in pro sports and yet still retain college eligibility.  However, that's not the way it's worded and quite literally it would apply to all "organized" competition, including participation as a post-grad in organized competion in a prep school league.

It may not seem that clear at first read, but the gist of the rule is:

1. A player can participate in up to one year of "organized" basketball (for example, in a post-grad prep school league), but that player will have to lose a year of eligibility when he does eventually enroll in college (he will have to sit for "a year in residence" before playing); and

2. A player who participates for more than one year   of such competition shall be ineligible to compete in that sport. (99-106-1 (c))

Now the interesting part about (c) above is how the phrase "following the next opportunity to enroll after graduation of his or her expected high-school class" will be interpreted.  Up to now, the concept of college eligibility has always been premised upon a prospective student-athlete actually completing graduation. Thus, as an example only, when Bradley Jackson, a player at Inglewood HS several years ago, tried to get out of his NLI with CSUN, which refused to grant him a release, Jackson (or so it was said) intentionally flunked a class, didn't graduate, and enrolled at a prep school to "open up" his recruiting again.   Jackson had not completed high school, so when he repeated his "senior" year at the prep school, he was not charged with using any of his NCAA eligibility, and yet he still was able to participate in organized competition to improve his recruiting.   He wound up with a whole new senior year and never enrolled at Northridge, instead getting recruited by San Diego State. [And as a footnote, he left San Diego State and enrolled at the College of Southern Idaho, where he again hoped to improve his recruiting yet again. . .we have not heard yet where he will end up playing next year, if anywhere, but he would still have two more years of eligibility remaining, while the rest of his "expected high school class" at Inglewood will graduate next year].

Under the proposed rule, what would have been the outcome under the same facts?  Would Jackson's prep school year have been viewed as "organized competition" more than one year after the graduation of his "expected high school class?"  What exactly is an "expected high school class?"  

And what of the students currently who have left SoCal (and there are many) who are repeating their freshman, sophomore or junior years at a prep school, all with the same expectation, i.e., improving not only their academics but also improving their recruiting by gaining additional exposure, not to mention being a year older, stronger and perhaps better than they would be if they had graduated with their "expected high school class" here in SoCal?   Will they be chareged with the loss of one year of eligibility for failure to enroll in a college "at the first opportunity?"

The NCAA's rationale is stated to be as follows:

Rationale: This proposal addresses concerns that institutions may be willing to recruit "ringers" with limited collegiate eligibility after initial full-time enrollment who are unlikely to graduate from the institution. The proposed change would permit prospects to "test the waters" for one-year period and retain the opportunity to participate in intercollegiate competition.

We express no opinion about the rule, good or bad, but merely point out its seeming implications.  And to those intending to utilize the prep school route, either pre-graduation or post-grad, you might want to look into the situation a bit more closely before jumping into those waters, because right now, there's no telling how deep they are or if you will really get what you think you are bargaining for.  Again, this legislation is merely proposed. It has not yet been enacted.   But like all things in life, there are no guarantees, one way or the other, and if it is imposed, well, don't say we didn't give fair warning.

The Swish Award
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