The NCAA came one step closer to a number of new rules last week. For the most part, Notre Dame expected the decisions as approved.
The bullet points:
- Classes of signed recruits may no longer exceed 25 players.
- Beginning next spring, high school juniors may take official visits in April, May and June.
- Pending one more approval, recruits may now sign during a December period, in addition to the traditional timetable beginning in February.
- Tom Rees will technically be a graduate assistant for 2017, not an assistant coach.
- Following college basketball’s lead, “individuals associated with a prospect” may no longer be hired to support positions.
Now what effect, if any, will those pieces of legislation have for the Irish?
Brian Kelly has never signed more than 25 recruits to a Notre Dame class, so that rule seemingly would have no effect on the Irish. His peak in regards to volume came with classes of 24, 23 and 24 in 2013, 2014 and 2015, respectively.
Theoretically, the hard cap on signees could filter some talent to Notre Dame. If other schools known for over-signing can no longer do such, their Nos. 26-whatever will have to go elsewhere. The ensuing domino effect could land a recruit with the Irish. In practice, this will be impossible to quantify, but the logic holds on its own.
With 12 recruits committed to Notre Dame in the class of 2018 already and the likelihood of a scholarship crunch limiting the class’s size, the Irish will not be in danger of pushing 25 this cycle.
Next cycle, however, Notre Dame may have better odds with many recruits thanks to the new springtime official visits. Previously, a recruit could not take an official visit until September of his senior year in high school, relatively late in the recruiting process. Beginning with the class of 2019 (presently concluding their sophomore years in high school), recruits may take official visits in April, May and June of their junior year.
Notre Dame can pay for the travel and lodging of an official visit. Suddenly, Kelly will have the chance to showcase the school and campus far earlier in the recruiting cycle. That first—and earlier—impression should only help. For example, next year’s Blue-Gold Game could be a recruiting jewel, displaying some of the pomp and circumstance of a Notre Dame gameday without waiting for a high school’s bye week to match with an Irish home game.
If a prospect enjoys that sampling, it is possible he pays for himself to visit during the season. It certainly seems making that investment is more likely if able to see Notre Dame vs. Michigan on Sept. 1, 2018, or Notre Dame vs. Florida State on Nov. 10, 2018. At least, that is more likely than making that investment to see an intrasquad scrimmage in April.
On this past National Signing Day, Kelly addressed the potential changes in recruiting strategy tied to an earlier signing day. Essentially, he expected no changes in recruiting strategy.
“I think each kid is going to have to react to it based upon also how their school is going to be dealing with it,” Kelly said. “I think some will come off the board at that time. I think we’re getting our hands around it a little bit. We’re expecting some to sign early, but our mindset is we’re going into it business as usual.
“We’re all going to have to fight until February.”
As the new legislation concerns Rees, he was hired with the hopes of being a full-fledged coach this season, but trends indicated a few months of delay may push that to next season. Indeed, Notre Dame can have only nine assistants until the new rule goes into effect Jan. 9, 2018. Irish coach Brian Kelly has said that will not alter Rees’s role as quarterbacks coach.
“For you guys that are counting, we have nine coaches, so he is officially in a graduate assistant’s role,” Kelly said when announcing Rees’s hire at the end of January. “He is fully empowered to coach them. He will have the room. He will coach those quarterbacks on a day-to-day basis, and I have great confidence in his ability to do so.”
Until Jan. 9, though, Rees will not be able to recruit off campus.
That same day, Kelly announced Dave Ballou as an addition to the Notre Dame strength and conditioning staff. Coming from IMG Academy in Brandenton, Fla., Ballou could have been considered an associate of IMG players. Per the new legislation, such a hire would not be allowed within two years before or after signing any IMG recruit.
Simply put, IMG is a football talent factory. Closing the door on its prospects for two years would not be worth a voice in the weight room, no matter how sage the voice may be. Before hiring Ballou, Kelly and Notre Dame made sure there would be a retroactive date to the then-proposed rule, and Ballou’s tenure began before that date.
For thoroughness’s sake: Individuals associated with prospects can still be hired by college programs … as assistant coaches. They may not fill support positions. The nine—soon to be 10—assistant coaches are not considered support staff.
With last week’s approval from the NCAA’s Division I Council, all these new rules will need approval from the NCAA Board of Directors in June. Any alterations would come as a surprise.
The Collegiate Commissioners Association, in charge of the National Letter of Intent program, will vote in June to approve the December signing day. Again, any resistance would be unexpected.