New phone contact rules may give coaches headaches

NCAA coaches disagree on new cell phone rules.

As if college basketball coaches weren’t on their cellphones enough already, new NCAA rules insure it will be harder than ever to put them down.

Under the new rules, coaches may have unlimited calls and text messages to a prospect after the June 15 of that player’s sophomore year.

Before, phone contact was regulated, limited and highly punishable with infractions when rules were broken.

Calls had to be logged — it’s what led to Kelvin Sampson’s firing at Indiana.

There’s no word if the governing board of major college athletics will help subsidize the more expensive calling plans for unlimited talk and texts.

Among other recruiting reforms approved by NCAA Division I Board of Directors on Thursday in Indianapolis were funding for visits, a longer spring recruiting period starting immediately after the Final Four and additional contact for players after their junior year.

Not surprisingly, the rule changes regarding phone calls and texts generated differing opinions between Pacific-12 Conference head coaches at a recent media day.

“In the most general sense, I’m a strong proponent of deregulation,” Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said. “Over the years with good intent, with intelligent rationale, it seems like we continue to add layer upon layer of rules. In many cases, those rules have created chasms between coaches and players, coaches and prospective players. Anything we can do to simplify and standardize the rules can go a long way toward helping the member institutions, the coaches, administrators and players.”

USC coach Kevin O’Neill agreed with Sendek’s position.

“I’m in favor of deregulation,” he said. “I think the less rules we have, the better.”

O’Neill said he believes extending phone contact won’t necessarily increase pressure on athletes, but help coaches recruit the “right” players for their program.

“It might cut down on some transfers if you get to know these guys a little bit better and spend some time with them on the phone,” he said. “You might find out I don’t want to recruit this guy at all. He’s a moron, I don’t want to deal with him.”

But not all coaches like the idea. Cal coach Mike Montgomery worries that the new rules might cause overkill for top recruits.

“It kind of blows my mind to be honest with you,” he said. “The fact that we’re now going to be tweeting, texting, calling these kids any time, anyplace, it’s hard for me to really understand. I’ve always been relatively protective of kids and their privacy.

“I think kids need to have an opportunity to focus on some of the things that are important in their lives, such as academics and family. I just don’t know how this is going to work itself out.”

In the ultra-competitive world of college basketball recruiting, there will undoubtedly be coaches who abuse the more permissive rules. Montgomery wonders what the impact will be.

“It’s so difficult now to keep kids level-headed relative to where they are and what their expectations are. To turn 340 Division I coaches on them 24 hours a day, I’m not certain how this is going to work itself out,” Montgomery said.

And even though it concerns him immensely, he will have to follow suit.

“You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” he said. “Coaching staffs are hiring people to do just that. That’s all they do is text, tweet, whatever they do. That’s not my idea of what a coach is, but if you have to do that, ultimately you’ve got to recruit players.”

So what does a player think about the possibility of being bombarded by calls and texts?

“I wasn’t that highly recruited out of high school, so I’d like to be able to get anyone to want to call me or text me,” said UCLA guard Lazeric Jones, drawing chuckles from the media and his coach Ben Howland. “In junior college, I was welcome to all the texts and all the calls.”

At least since every cellphone is equipped with caller identification, a prospect knows exactly who is on the horn.

“Trust me, kids can look to see who’s calling and just ignore it. I know for sure they can do that,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar deadpanned. “They just don’t have to respond to your text. If they want to respond, they’ll respond. I don’t see that being a problem. I think that’s a positive right now.”

Even O’Neill knows that many of his phone calls and texts will go unanswered.

It doesn’t just happen in the recruiting world, it happens in everyday life.

“They don’t have to pick up their phone if they don’t want to,” he said. “There are some people that call me, I look at my phone, and I’m like, ‘I’m not picking that up, no way.’ So I think you’ll see a lot of that.”

(c)2011 The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.). Visit The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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