NCAA to deregulate recruiting and coaching staff size, will these lead to an “arms race”?

Georgia Bulldogs director of athletics Greg McGarity (glasses white shirt) watches the game against the Florida Gators in the first half at Stegeman Coliseum. McGarity is wary of the upcoming potential recruiting free-for-all. (Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)

It’s pretty simple: In the last 10-plus years, cell phones really have become ubiquitous in American society. Since that time, college coaches have done everything they could to keep in constant contact with recruits while remaining under the radar of the NCAA’s rules enforcement committees. Texting has been the simplest way, as taking the extra minute to text a recruit can go a very long way in the mind of a high school football star.

Thus, for the last 10-plus years, the NCAA has worked to regulate the amount of texting a coach or coaching staff can do. It has tried to regulate the amount of phone calls any coach or coaching staff can make.

But that will no longer be the case.

Beginning on July 1, college sports’ governing body has decided to tear out several pages of its rule book. Instead of a bumbling bureaucratic effort that largely penalizes small infractions while missing larger ones, the NCAA has just said “to heck with it”; for the first time, coaches will be allowed to have unlimited contact with recruits. As much texting as they like and as many phone calls as they can make.

From as many people as they can pay.

Another NCAA bylaw being thrown out the window is the cap on the number of recruiters a football program can hire. Thus, head coaches can hire entire new staffs just to stay on the recruiting trail 24/7/ 365 — literally. With the millions of dollars of budget surplus several programs currently enjoy, these schools can potentially employ an army to recruit the nation’s top athletes.

Of course, some will jump at the opportunity. Others, however, are not quite as excited.

While the Big Ten has been extremely vocal in their displeasure, their overtures might have been somewhat expected. The conference has never put football up on a pedestal the way the SEC has.

“We have serious concerns whether these proposals, as currently written, are in the best interest of high school student-athletes, their families and their coaches,” a joint statement released by the conference’s schools said. “We are also concerned about the adverse effect they would have on college coaches, administrators and university resources.”

Which makes Greg McGarity’s agreement with the Big Ten such a surprise to most members of Dawg Nation. The Georgia athletic director directly expressed his concern that the deregulation will quickly result in a recruiting arms race, where only the rich get richer while the rest are left by the wayside.

“Some school is going to want to get on the high dive with this and go all in and spend and spend,” McGarity told the New York Times. “It is going to start a round of competition among schools that is going to be limitless.”

Insert Alabama into ‘some school’ in McGarity’s quote, and we come to the core of the problem.

Coach Nick Saban has been head and shoulders above the competition in terms of recruiting for the last half-decade. He is notorious for doing absolutely everything he can, within the framework of NCAA rules, to bring in the very best players and to bring the very best out of them.

In order to get around the cap on assistant coaches, he hired off-field “consultants” to help (not) coach players. In order to bring in a new crop of elite talent, he gets some kids to grayshirt, others to medically redshirt and still others simply to transfer.

The Tide has already proven it will put all the money and resources it can into its football program.

Without any restrictions, there is no telling the lengths to which Saban and his (dare we say?) minions will go, and the schoolwork of these star high schoolers may wind up suffering even more for it.

McGarity has spoken to four other athletic directors in the SEC who are also opposed to the new ruling. If they can get the vote of 75 D-I school presidents by March 20, the new deregulations will not take affect.

But will even that help stem the Tide?

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No matter what happens in this case, Alabama’s AJ McCarron isn’t going anywhere soon.