ACC coaches discuss controversial recruiting rule

The ACC’s football coaches had a lengthy discussion about the controversial “bump” rule at last month’s conference meetings, according to Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson.

The bump rule is big news this week because Florida assistant Joker Phillips abruptly resigned after an alleged flagrant violation of the NCAA rule. Yahoo reported that Phillips was photographed sitting with a recruit at a restaurant (and was turned in by someone with ties to Miami).

What is the bump rule? Every spring, college assistant coaches hit the road to check on prospects at high schools. The coaches aren’t allowed to have any “face-to-face encounter” with a recruit that exceeds an exchange of a greeting, and the greeting can’t be pre-arranged. However, in reality, the encounters or bumps are planned and often stretch into a full-fledged meeting.

It’s easily the most violated recruiting rule in the NCAA’s thick book of bylaws. Illegal bumps are rarely turned in, and usually draw only a slap on the wrist with an NCAA secondary violation (The Phillips’ allegation is an extreme example).

Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson gave the AJC a candid perspective on what was discussed about the bump rule among his peers at the ACC meetings. The reasons for the discussion – and the proposed resolution – makes a lot of sense:

Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson (AJC)

Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson (AJC)

“What we talked about was not to be so hypocritical, that when you go out on the road to recruit in the spring, you should be able to have one contact at the high school,” Johnson said. “Right now, the assistant coaches, by the rules, aren’t allowed to have any contact with the kids in the spring.

“We all know how that’s going, right? So what it would do is take away the definition of what is a ‘bump.’ Because we all know what’s happening. When those coaches go out to recruit in the spring, the high school coach has four kids sitting in the office waiting on them. What do you say? ‘Oh no, I can’t talk to those kids?’ Right now by the rule, the college coach can say ‘Hey, how are you doing? I can’t talk or whatever.’ Some people do that, and some people do more than that.

“What the ACC coaches were talking about was let’s clear it up and take the ambiguity out of it and you have one contact at every high school in the spring. So when we go to evaluate a kid during the spring of their junior year, we can legally sit down with him and talk to him at the high school. Not go to his house. You can have one contact.

“The service academies (Army, Navy, Air Force) can do that now. When they go to the school, they can talk to everybody. So that’s what it would be. It was to clean up the rule and make it the same for everybody so you don’t have 100 different definitions on what is a bump. “

“There’s really no way to define it. Everybody can define it differently. What we’re saying just to clean it up, and you can have one contact in the spring to clean it up. You can sit down with the kid after school and at the school.”

Some more background on the bump rule by “The NCAA doesn’t allow contact with a recruit before July 1 following the completion of his or her junior year of high school. Contact is defined as “any face-to-face encounter” between a recruit and his or her family with a university representative that exceeds an exchange of a greeting. It’s not considered contact if the recruit approaches the coach, provided the encounter was not prearranged and the coach “does not engage in any dialogue in excess of a greeting and takes appropriate steps to immediately terminate the encounter.” You can split 1,000 hairs on what exactly constitutes excess dialogue and when terminating the encounter must occur.


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— By Michael Carvell, AJC’s Recruiting Blog

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