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Some major colleges fear looser recruiting guidelines

AD Currie says K-State supported deregulation of electronic communications

By The Mercury

New York Times

Greg McGarity, the University of Georgia athletic director, gathered the coaches from various teams in his office one morning several weeks ago to discuss the pending deregulation of recruiting in college athletics.

McGarity became the shopkeeper of a candy store and told his coaches to stuff their pockets. He gave them 15 minutes to present ideas about all they could do under the NCAA’s new legislation, which includes no limits on recruiting contact with high school athletes, no limits on recruiting materials that can be sent in the mail and no limits on staff used in recruiting, meaning they could hire a whole different staff in football to pursue players.

McGarity could see his athletic department’s budget surplus growing smaller.

‘‘It was an immediate red flag,” he said. “We now have about 35 items on the list of what the coaches would love to do. Think about if we gave them a few months to come up with things.”

On the wish list were 200-page, four-color brochures. Fathead posters of recruits. Videos of a recruit in a Georgia uniform. Four or five extra staff members devoted to recruiting.

‘‘Some school is going to want to get on the high dive with this and go all in and spend and spend,” McGarity said. “It is going to start a round of competition among schools that is going to be limitless.”

For years, athletic administrators and coaches have complained about NCAA recruiting rules being too cumbersome to enforce. So at the organization’s January convention in Dallas, university presidents passed legislation to tear some pages from the rule book. Recruiters could be added in any sport.

Deregulation also would allow any employee at a university, like a professor or a counselor, to contact a prospect.

Under the legislation, some of which would take effect July 1, prospects could exchange unlimited phone calls and text messages with universities.

Big Ten coaches and athletic directors issued a statement last week opposing key parts of the legislation.

“We have serious concerns whether these proposals, as currently written, are in the best interest of high school student-athletes, their families and their coaches,” the statement said. “We are also concerned about the adverse effect they would have on college coaches, administrators and university resources.”

McGarity said he talked to four other athletic directors in the Southeastern Conference who also opposed the legislation, and his goal was to have the SEC vote, 14-0, to override it.

The SEC’s athletic directors were scheduled to meet next week in Birmingham, Ala., to consider the legislation.

Opponents of the measures adopted in Dallas have until March 20 to gather 75 votes from presidents of Division I universities to start an override of the deregulation legislation.

The Big 12 and the Pac-12 declined to comment on the pending legislation.

Kansas State might be considered a relative have-not in college sports, with about $70 million in athletic revenue, compared with $150 million at the University of Texas, a Big 12 rival. But John Currie, the Kansas State athletic director, said he did not see his department through that prism and did not feel unduly threatened by deregulation.

‘‘We have won 21 games in the last two years,” Currie said of his football program. “I have 139 staff members, which I believe is the smallest full-time staff in the Big 12, but that does not affect our ability to be successful.”

He added: “If we lose out on somebody because our media guide was only 200 pages and somebody else’s was 400 pages, then so be it. I don’t think every school is going to add 25 new quality control coaches and recruiting coaches, because adding 25 new personalities to your building is not necessarily going to make you better.”

Currie said Kansas State supported the deregulation of electronic communications. And that, in itself, would save money.

‘‘We spend too much time and money trying to legislate something that is impossible to regulate,” Currie said. “A text message ban has unintended negative consequences and causes more waste of resources than unlimited texting. If a kid does not want to return a phone call or text, he won’t.”

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