SEC appeals new NCAA recruiting rule

The SEC is appealing a new interpretation of the NCAA’s most significant rule for college football recruiting within the past year.

It has to do with high school seniors who are approved academically to enroll early in college being able to sign financial aid agreements with multiple colleges – which, in turn, allowed those colleges to have “unlimited” contact, including in-person visits, with the prospect until they signed a national letter of intent (NLI). It also allowed the college coaches to speak publicly on the prospect.

This situation got weird when wide receiver Josh Malone of Gallatin, Tenn., signed financial aid agreements with four schools – Tennessee, UGA, Clemson and Florida State. The head coaches from all four colleges each commented publicly on Malone before he eventually signed an NLI with Tennessee.

So what’s new? It was learned earlier this month that the NCAA issued a new interpretation: If a senior signed more than one financial aid agreement beginning Aug. 1 of senior year, only the first college he signed with would have the benefits of unlimited contact and publicity.

However, a top NCAA official told the AJC that the new interpretation has been appealed by the SEC since then. The NCAA’s Div. I Legislative Council will review the matter in an April 15 session.

“The official interpretation has created a little bit of a concern among some in the membership that aren’t comfortable with — that it might result in inadvertent violations,” said Steve Mallonee, the NCAA’s Managing Director of Academic and Membership Affairs.

“If an institution is going to sign a kid, they would need to make sure he hasn’t signed with anybody else if they are going to engage in unlimited access. The issue becomes if the kid already signed with school A, and school B, C and D also signs him.

“B, C and D don’t get the unlimited access. And if they engage in that, they would be engaging in NCAA violations. It becomes the responsibility of each institution to make that determination, and there’s some who don’t feel like that’s the appropriate stance.

“That’s the concern because A, B, C, and D don’t have to share that (information with each other). So B may not let D know. You’re basically taking the word of the kid. That’s part of the issue.”

Unlike the NLI program, which is supervised by the NCAA, the financial aid agreements are shared only between the recruit and the respective college. For example, Tennessee will not disclose to UGA, Clemson and Florida State if next year’s Josh Malone (a) signs a financial aid agreement with Tennessee or (b) the date of signed agreement.

In the SEC, football information like this is protected as if it’s secrets to building a nuclear bomb. This was verified last December when the AJC requested a list of kids who signed early financial aid agreements from every SEC/ACC school. Several of those colleges refused to provide the information, sheepishly hiding behind privacy laws.

“This (situation) was never how it was envisioned,” Mallonee said. “Even though some of them (kids) might not have been serious (when they signed multiple agreements), kids were signing them and our membership basically raised some concerns.

“When they raised those concerns, basically the issue went back to our interpretive process and what they issued with the (new interpretation). The intent of the greater access (for colleges) was really designed for those who they really  are committed to, so they made this determination that only applied to the first institution where they signed. If a kid ended up signing with four or five institutions, only the first one gets the benefit of that.

“That’s the interpretation we have now. That’s going to be further reviewed in a month, and we’ll know if they will go back to original position or reverse that approach.”

What do Mark Richt and Paul Johnson think about the new NCAA recruiting rule? Click HERE





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— By Michael Carvell, AJC’s Recruiting Blog

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