The NCAA values football as an avocation, where the student-athlete balances playing with academic and social experiences. With that in mind, the NCAA enforces a complex set of recruiting guidelines that attempt to keep the young football player balanced by limiting the amount of contact he has with recruiters. The guidelines lay down a set of general rules alongside a football-specific recruiting calendar.
Freshman and Sophomore Year
A college recruiter may send sports camp brochures, questionnaires and NCAA educational information to a young recruit. The mailers cannot be personalized or handwritten. Coaches and recruiters may accept phone calls from the student-athlete, but only at the athlete's own expense. The coach may not call the recruit, even if the youngster calls and leaves a message. A recruit may visit the school and speak with the coach, but only on campus. The coach can give the athlete up to three free sporting event tickets, but nothing more.
Starting September 1 of the athlete's junior year, a college coach can mail personalized information to the recruit. This includes schedule cards, personalized letters, media guides, photocopies of newspaper clippings and official university academic and admissions publications. Coaches and recruiters may now actively engage the recruit through email, reaching out to the athlete and responding to emails from the youngster. Recruiters may still not call the athlete but may receive calls. These rules apply from September 1 to June 30 of the athlete's junior year.
Summer After Junior Year
Recruiting really heats up in the summer after the athlete's junior year. Starting July 1, coaches may call the athlete and his family once per week. Recruiters can still receive unlimited calls as long as those calls are initiated and paid for by the student-athlete. The coaching staff may also contact the athlete and his family in person. The NCAA considers anything more than a basic hello to be a contact. Coaches and recruiters are allowed six in-person contacts during contact periods on the NCAA football recruiting calendar, but the head coach can only be a part of one of those contacts.
A college may invite a student-athlete for up to five official, expense-paid visits following his first day of classes senior year. The visits can last no longer than 48 hours. The school must receive his official transcript and his SAT or ACT scores before the visit begins. But the NCAA enforces a football-specific recruiting calendar complete with contact, evaluation, quiet and dead periods. The calendar, which is slightly different every year, ensures fair play by telling recruiters exactly when evaluation and contact is permissible.
In 2014, the NCAA considered August 1 through November 29 an evaluation period when a coach could watch the student-athlete perform for one calendar day. A contact period began November 30 through January 15, 2015. Six off-campus, in-person contacts are allowed during this time, but not more than one within the same week. Recruiters may not contact the athlete off campus and in person from February 1 through April 14; then, a 168-day evaluation period begins. Coaches may assess the student athletically once and academically once during this time. Then recruiters may not contact athletes off campus and in person from June 1 through July 12.
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