The NCAA board of directors wants to take a longer look at its new recruiting rules.
On Thursday, the board suspended the biggest and most contentious rules change it approved 3½ months ago — eliminating the restrictions on how coaches can contact recruits and how often those contacts can take place outside the traditional no-contact periods. All sports other than men’s and women’s basketball, which have been abiding by that the rule since last summer, will have to wait for a change.
It was one of only two rules changes of the roughly two dozen that passed in January to receive enough school signatures to override the vote. The board has pledged to listen to the concerns of coaches, athletic directors and other school leaders before putting a formal proposal back on the table.
"We are supportive of moving as aggressively as possible while still studying the issues with due diligence," board chairman Nathan Hatch, Wake Forest’s president, said in a statement posted on the NCAA website. "It’s important to make sure all the pieces of the recruiting model work together to make the most effective change in the culture."
An NCAA spokeswoman said board members were not available to comment following Thursday’s regular quarterly meeting in Indianapolis.
The move is yet another stark turnabout in a reform movement that has slowed dramatically President Mark Emmert talked about fast-tracking the changes in August 2011.
Instead, the push for a stipend of up to $2,000 per athlete was overridden in December 2011 over concerns that included Title IX compliance, and the board continues to discuss how to craft a new proposal. Three other rulebook changes were suspended last month by the board because of complaints from the schools, and two —- the deregulation of recruiting and a prohibition on live scouting of opponents — both received the necessary 75 votes to be overridden.
The other three rules under suspension would have eliminated the definition of recruiting roles, allowed earlier contact with prospective recruits and eliminated restrictions on what printed materials could be sent to a recruit.
The board did not back down on the scouting proposal. It will now be sent back to the full membership for an online up-or-down vote.
Emmert’s greatest successes have generally come on the academic side where university presidents have strongly backed eligibility standards for incoming freshmen while tying classroom performance to postseason eligibility. That part didn’t change Thursday.
But the board did make two significant changes — voting to keep the sliding scale between test scores and GPA in the 16 core high school courses indefinitely and changing how that GPA is calculated.
The new rule, set to take effect in the fall of 2016, requires incoming freshmen to have a 2.3 GPA in those core courses to be eligible. To help phase in the new policies, board members agreed to use a sliding scale temporarily. And those GPAs will now be based on the 16 best grades in math, science, English and other courses, rather than including every score if the student completes more than 16 core courses.
Walter Harrison, president at the University of Hartford and chairman of the committee on academic performance, explained the changes were needed to limit the impact on student-athletes coming from low-resource high schools or those who would scare off coaches because they were too close to the borderline.
"I’m concerned about minority students who would be affected by the dramatic change to the sliding scale," Harrison said. "The new 930 APR (Academic Progress Rate) benchmark required for postseason competition is impacting coaches’ recruiting decisions. These changes and the action the board took today to strengthen the high school core GPA calculation will make the positive effects even more dramatic."
The board wasn’t just talking about rules Thursday, either.
It formally approved the application of the reformed Big East to become a multi-sport league, acknowledged the name change of the old Big East to the American Athletic Conference and promised to keep both actively engaged in the governance structure.
In addition, the board approved a measure to allow any Football Bowl Subdivision team that goes into a conference championship game with a 6-6 mark to be eligible for postseason play — regardless of whether they win or lose the title game. UCLA and Georgia Tech both had to apply for waivers after losing in the title game to fall to 6-7. The new rule eliminates the need for those teams to seek a waiver.