Recruiting Essentials: After a month, how are the new NCAA recruiting rules changing the landscape?
September 13, 2023
In a bold move aimed at reshaping the landscape of college baseball recruiting, the NCAA recently implemented a series of rule changes designed to bring more structure and transparency to the process. As the recruiting calendar opened on Aug. 1, prospects, parents, and coaches across the nation found themselves navigating these changes, evaluating their implications on the path from the high school diamond onto a collegiate field.
The new rules are aimed at slowing down the recruitment process and ensuring a more holistic evaluation of potential student-athletes. A key change is the alteration to the Contact Period, which began as the calendar officially flipped to August, prohibits communication of any kind between prospective student-athletes and college coaches prior to Aug. 1 of their junior year. This prohibition in communication is designed to sever the recruitment of players who are underclassmen in high school, or are even younger, which was a practice that had been increasing over the last decade, especially.
The new Division I baseball Contact Periods are as follows, under the new rules now in place:
Aug. 1 to Aug. 20, 2023
Sept. 15 to Oct. 8, 2023
March 1 to July 31, 2024
Now that we’re just over a month into the new rules that affect this Contact Period, we had the opportunity to speak with a recruiting coordinator at an SEC program to learn of how these rules changes have shaken up his own recruiting calendar already.
NEW NCAA RECRUITING RULES: Q&A
Andy Sroka: Well, we’re just over a month into the application of the new recruiting rules. So far, how do you think things are faring?
Anonymous SEC recruiting coordinator: "I think it's been great. The ability to get to August to first communicate with a rising junior – with the [transfer] portal so heavily recruited when the college season ends, until about the middle of July, you don't have the ability to cover the rising junior class until later in the summer anyway. [The rule change] allows you to get later in the summer, ID these kids, and then you get to go to the [PBR] Future Games, which was huge for us.
“We got to see a lot, the majority '25s, in one spot. Who we want to start connecting with, inviting to camps – they're now coming on visits to football games, and on official visits."
AS: Do you feel as if these rules will benefit the student-athletes as well, even if that means fewer are “committed” at this stage than in years past?
RC: "What the change has done is, back in the old days, players go on visits senior year just to start to look. Now, it's when they're juniors, but they're still allowed to take their time. College coaches are making better decisions, and kids are too, so you'll see a major drop in de-commitments as well.”
AS: You foresee a major drop in de-commitments? How so?
RC: “There's more evaluation time to evaluate. When you're recruiting so young, you just have to take a chance. Trying to project is a challenge. Kids lose the ability to go through the recruiting process, they're done, and when de-commitment comes and there's regret on both sides."
AS: Prior to the rule change, how did you juggle evaluating a wide range of players of different ages and at different stages of their playing careers?
RC: "Before, you're trying to cover so many classes, five classes, and JUCOs, and the portal – that's a lot of guys to evaluate. You're going off one look to make a call. Now, fewer mistakes to be made on both ends. Kids know now that coaches can take their time, so the kids can too. We crushed the '24 class on the pitching end just this summer. Early in the summer, guys were focused on the portal and there was a lot of talent out there. All in all, it's been good."
AS: So you feel as if there’s a more natural rhythm to your recruiting calendar?
RC: "When you can wait, take your time, it makes the high school recruiting more important. Before, we would go and watch on an off-day in the spring, and we’d go to watch our committed guy or a really young guy because so many kids were committed. Now, there's a value in going out and watching '25s play in the spring. I'll be willing to say: I'm not watching '26s in the spring, '25s will get all of the attention this spring. That's the cool part. You're gonna see an uptick in a concentration of juniors in their spring season. No communication with '26s means there's less of an emphasis on seeing those kids ahead of schedule."
AS: The uncertainty made it a strange recruiting campaign for this Class of 2025, but how do you think this will affect the ‘26s?
RC: "The Class of 2026 recruiting is trending to be, like, a sprinkle in at the beginning of the summer when you can – this year, we didn't see a travel ball tournament until July, or late June. Earlier in the summer, you're recruiting the portal, watching collegiate summer league games and it takes up a lot of time. Future Games is where you'll start to lock in on '26s. Prospect camps in the fall, get these guys to football games… then think about players to see in the spring. Longer window to recruit those guys. I think it's going to be really good."
AS: Can you help illustrate some of the most significant differences in your recruiting calendar now, as opposed to years past?
RC: "Trying to cover everything at once, basically, and without focusing on the portal, you were immediately going to the sophomores because you'd already seen the juniors. In the past, this next summer I'd be on '26s and '27s. I'd be close to being done with '26s at the start of next summer. Now, I don't even know their names yet."
AS: Do you have any advice for the underclassmen who were anticipating getting their recruitment started as they entered high school?
RC: "You don't need to worry about us, this is a better system. So, focus on the skills you need to play at the next level. We'll know who you are by then. The rules are the rules. This is how it is. Change your focus from communicating with coaches to, now, I need to focus solely on development, I need to be physically ready to play at that level. First two years of high school, just focus on the player development side so you're ready for it. In the past, showcase themselves in the eighth grade – that's a lot of pressure. That takes the pressure off of them. I think that's a good thing."
AS: With an increasing emphasis on the transfer portal, JUCO baseball, how is that affecting the high school recruiting scene?
RC: "I still believe that the lifeblood of the college program is bringing freshmen in.
“Sophomores and juniors playing every day who came into the program that way. What you're going to see, it'll be even harder to play as freshmen, so they have to be more polished, they have to be physically strong. Kids play so much baseball now – strength and speed are the biggest differentiators. It was important to stand out physically, and these kids are more physical than ever, but the polish isn't there.
“Strike zone discipline of the hitters is not there, pitchability is not there, now you have to be much more physically polished. In this day and age, you're going to the portal to get performers, not velocity, per se. The focus can't just be on swing metrics and pitch metrics. You've got to be a player, pitch it and hit it. Metrics help, they're important, but you're not gonna walk into college ball and pitch if you can't throw strikes. The freshmen have to be more polished than ever, when it comes to putting together at-bats, execute pitches."