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Michael Carvell

The one recruiting rule change nearly all coaches support

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UGA's Mark Richt (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

UGA’s Mark Richt: “I’m 100 percent behind that because you’d love to have parents come on trips so the young man can make a better decision” (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

I’m 100 percent behind that because you’d love to have parents come on trips so the young man can make a better decision

In talking with many SEC and ACC head coaches over the last month, they have a lot of different ideas on rule changes to improve college football recruiting.

Most of them support some form of an early signing period, but they have radically different suggestions on how to do it. If you ask 15 coaches, you may get 15 different answers on the format. It becomes more confusing, rather than less confusing.

However, there is one proposed idea that seems to have nearly unanimous support among coaches: Reducing the number of official visits for a prospect from five to four or three, but allowing the colleges to pay for the travel of the prospect’s parents or legal guardian to make the recruiting trip with their child.

It’s an idea that is gaining widespread support (and was voted on at the recent AFCA convention in an unofficial straw poll) because of fiscal reasons: It projects to save money for both the colleges and the high school kids during the recruiting process.

Under the current NCAA rules for football, colleges can pay for the lodging and food of parents during an official visit but not travel costs to reach campus.

That seems to be an unfair financial burden on a recruit’s family when college football is raking in hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue, along with the fact that picking a college can be one of the biggest decisions in a young person’s life.

“I’m 100 percent behind that because you’d love to have parents come on trips so the young man can make a better decision,” UGA coach Mark Richt said. “And the reality is, most kids don’t have five official visits to take. So I think that’s a great suggestion, and I agree 100 percent on that.”

Said Tennessee’s Butch Jones, “I think that’s a very good thought and a very good proposal. When a young man is making a decision, he would obviously like his family there with him. I think in today’s world of recruiting, very few individuals take five official visits. If you did limit them, and you were able to take a mother or father with them, I think that’s extremely healthy and very beneficial when a young man is trying to make a decision that will, quite frankly, not only affect four years of his life, but the rest of his life. It’s a big decision, and they rely on their family. So to be able to bring them on the official visit would benefit the whole recruiting process.”

Last month across the state of Georgia, more than 200 high school seniors signed football scholarships with FBS schools. But less than 2-percent took more than three official visits to colleges.

AJC Super 11 LB Raekwon McMillan, who enrolled at Ohio State this week (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Only 1 out of 200+ Georgia high school seniors that signed with D1 schools took all five official visits. And only two took four. Unreal (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Only one 2014 prospect from Georgia, Liberty County linebacker Raekwon McMillan (signed with Ohio State), used up all five of his NCAA-allowed five official visits. More surprisingly, only two kids took four official visits – Cedar Grove linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams (South Carolina) and Norcross defensive end Lorenzo Carter (Georgia).

When a prospect takes an official visit to a college that is located five hours away or less, some kids make the trip in the car because they will be reimbursed at a mileage rate, essentially covering the travel costs of their parents.

However, financial concerns arise when kids need to take flights for numerous reasons, including limited time to avoid missing school or the college is located too far away. Last-minute plane tickets for parents are usually a sky-high expense.

“I would be in favor of that, and I’d even say that it’s a great idea,” Central Gwinnett High School’s Todd Wofford said. “Most kids don’t get anywhere near the five official visits. That would be a huge deal because some kids have legitimate interest in schools that are far away. The parents have to foot the bill if they want to go on that trip, too, and they are a big part of that decision.”

“I think that would be absolutely brilliant,” North Gwinnett’s Bon Sphire said. “It’s a real hardship on a lot of families to make that trip. And they need to be there with their son. That’s very, very difficult for a lot of family. That’s a huge decision that needs to be a family decision. The whole family needs to be on board with it and be there on the visits.”

Here are opinions from some other football coaches on allowing colleges to pay for the travel costs of parents on official visits:

FSU's Jimbo Fisher

FSU’s Jimbo Fisher

Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher: “I think that’s great. I think that’s critical. I think that’s a very good rule. A kid that lives 6-8 hours away and his parents can’t come and see the place with him? You’ve got be able to bring the family. It’s a family decision. It’s very critical for a guy at that age. Most of the kids don’t take the five official visits anyways. Most everybody knows there are only two or three schools in it anyways. But if we could work out something for them to bring family with them, I think that would be extremely critical.”

Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly: “I think it’s absolutely crucial to have the family, in particular the parents, on the official visits when they’re making arguably the biggest decision of their life. I think it’s absolutely crucial that they’re allowed to be on that visit with them if we’re really in it for the best interests of the student-athlete. Allowing us to compensate the families, and getting them on the visits so they can help the young man make the biggest decision of their life, that seems to be an easy one for me. As it relates to the number of visits, I don’t know if I have an opinion on that one way or the other because most of the time, I don’t think they use their five. But I think you should allow them to keep the five. And, for most part, they don’t use them all. I think if we find out that they are using them up just to use them, then maybe we can look at it statistically and narrow it down. But I think the most important part of that is paying for the parents to be on that visit.”

Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen: “There has been discussion of that in the meetings. Anytime you can pay for the parents to come up is huge, especially for us in recruiting because we are a family-oriented program with how we do things. I love having parents involved in the recruiting aspect of things. The opportunity to get them on a visit is huge and very important to us. If you did a study, I don’t think a lot of kids take five official visits. So, I think the opportunity to do less visits but with more substance on the visits would be a really good idea.”

Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson: “There has been a lot of talk about cutting visits and being able to pay for parents to go on the visits, too. I think that would be a good deal. I’m not sure the kids need five visits. If you cut it back to three visits and the colleges paid for the family’s travel on those three, I think that would probably be a pretty good model. That way their parents could go with them on the visits.”

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze: “Our chances of getting a kid here increase dramatically if we get the parents to visit with them. I think when they see what we have going on here with the family atmosphere, the new facilities and everything we have with our vision here, it certainly benefits just to have them here. I would be in favor of anything to get them (parents) to visit here.”

Spurrier

Spurrier

South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier: “That would be fine with me. We need to pay for everything we can for the parents of these kids. I’ve always been for a stipend of around $4,000 a year for college football players and college basketball players because they do bring in so much money to our universities. I know they are still discussing that, and I know the Northwestern guys came up with the union up there. And whether or not that will spread, we’ve just got to wait and see.”

Missouri’s Gary Pinkel: “That would good if you get parents or guardians on visits. Most kids visit six or seven schools on unofficial visits and they kind of narrow it down to which ones they really want to go to (on official visits). So I think there’s common sense with that.”

Miami’s Al Golden: “I think that would be great … Another way to look at it, imagine if we had an early signing day and we could save all that money? Then we could have four or five visits and pay for everybody. If we had a challenge next year for a charity and we’re going to give the money from all 125 D1 institutions in this transition year to a charity that I think you would save from an early signing day, I think you would be shocked with what we spend and where we can apply that money in other areas that would be more beneficial to all student-athletes at a particular institution, let alone cover the travel costs of a parent on an official visit.”

Note: The NCAA already allows colleges for pay for the travel costs of parents in basketball so it seems like a no-brainer to add for football. Also, for any rule change to take place in football recruiting, the proposed idea would have to be submitted by conference officials to the NCAA for review and approval.

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– By Michael Carvell, AJC’s Recruiting Blog

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