Posted: 11:32 am Monday, March 17th, 2014
By Michael Carvell
Here are the opinions of UGA’s Mark Richt and Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson on the NCAA rule interpretation that allows high school seniors who are approved for early enrollment to sign financial aid agreements with colleges beginning on Aug. 1 of their senior year.
It’s a pretty big deal because if a kid signs the non-binding agreement, it gives that college “unlimited” contact, including in-person visits, with the recruit and allows that college coach to speak publicly about the recruit until they sign a national letter of intent (NLI).
The SEC is appealing part of this NCAA interpretation that you can read about HERE.
UGA’s Mark Richt dealt directly with this unique situation this year when wide receiver Josh Malone of Gallatin, Tenn., signed financial aid agreements with four colleges – the Bulldogs, Tennessee, Clemson and Florida State. All four head coaches of the schools spoke publicly to reporters about Malone before he signed a binding NLI with Tennessee.
“I think it kind of caught everybody by surprise,” Richt told the AJC. “Some people took advantage of it, and some people didn’t. I don’t know how to say it, but I think with a whole year of planning, it may be used a little bit different in the future – more often and more aggressively.
“Will that in turn cause restriction? My guess is that this will be a short-lived thing. We may go through with one more year of it, or we may think it through between now and then, and say ‘I’m not sure this is the wisest thing to do.’ Or it may become such a common practice that it’s not problematic. But my guess is that there will be some issues come up that might make everybody rethink it.”
Richt is obviously concerned that this could develop into a growing trend in college football recruiting — Teams would encourage kids to become eligible to enroll early and sign the agreements, and then the teams would have dedicate heavy resources for “unlimited” contact. Remember the stories about how coaches stayed in hotels for months near Herschel Walker’s house to see him daily and recruit him?
But this year was a poor example of that because Josh Malone was only one of a handful of kids that signed agreements with multiple schools.
“But again, it was early and it was new,” Richt said. “This year, I don’t think we saw what it could become when everybody has a year to gear up for it. You know, then who decides if this guy is capable of being a midyear or not? You can sign it with the intention of being a midyear guy, and then it doesn’t come to fruition. But in the meantime, all the other NCAA recruiting restrictions have been taken off in certain areas with texting, calls or even in-person contacts.
“I’ve got a feeling it’s going to get out of hand in the future. I know like a year ago, when we brought in 13, and we recruited 17 guys that could’ve been midyear guys, how in the world could I have possibly seen every one of those kids and still coached the team? I just don’t think it could’ve happened.
“This year, it was not a big deal for us. We really had one or two guys that we were thinking could be midyear enrollees. It was not that big of a deal for us this year. I can see where it could become a madhouse if we’re not careful. My guess it won’t live too long.”
And how does Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson feel about kids signing early with financial aid agreements?
“I don’t know if it makes a whole lot of difference. Everybody is going to do it differently. Some will send out (the financial-aid agreements) early, some won’t. You know, when a kid signs a financial-aid agreement, what good are they? It takes the limits off how many times you can call them. It helps him. He’s got a guaranteed deal.
“All you’ve got to do and look and see: What’s everybody doing? People aren’t sending them to whomever they offer. If you’ve got a guy who you really believe is committed and is really coming, yeah it helps you. It helps you to be able to contact them more. If a guy is trying to sign four or five financial-aid agreements, the only difference it makes is that you’ve got unlimited contact with the guy. That’s about it.
“I don’t have a strong opinion about this right now. We’ll see how it plays out.”
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