A nightmare has ended for Mike Candrea and perhaps countless other Division I softball coaches.
Last week, the NCAA announced new legislation that now prohibits college coaches from contacting high school recruits prior to September 1 of their junior year, effective immediately.
“I love it,” said Candrea, who’s in his 33rd season at Arizona. “It’s long overdue.”
Before the alterations, there was no age limit and prospective student-athletes were being pursued at younger and younger ages.
How young exactly? According to NCAA research, 43 percent of softball recruits had been contacted (directly or indirectly) by a college coach in 9th grade or earlier. 88 percent had been contacted in 10th grade or earlier.
Only 18 percent had been first contacted in 11th grade. So this will be a seismic change, but one for the better, Candrea opines.
Evaluating eighth graders was no easy feat, but “you had to do it because everyone else was doing it.”
“I’ve been very frustrated,” he said. “... Recruiting has been an absolute nightmare when I have to try to make a decision on an eighth grader and decide that they’re going to be a great college player. So I think that’s going to alleviate that.”
Candrea believes the new legislation will help recruits, too.
“I think it’s going to allow these kids to prepare themselves longer, to make probably their most important decision of the life other than their husband, and be able to do it when they have more information and they’re a little more stable and know themselves,” he said. “It’s the best situation for them.”
I asked Mike Candrea about the new restrictions in college softball that prevent programs from recruiting players until they’re juniors in high school, and he is very happy about the change: “It’s long overdue.” pic.twitter.com/CKWgkTjRFv— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) April 19, 2018
Candrea also hopes the new legislation leads to more multi-sport athletes and allows high school and travel coaches to focus more on player development and less on being a recruiting liaison.
“I hope now young kids will continue to play some other sports and develop their athleticism instead of being a full-time softball player when you’re 10 years old,” he said. “To me, that has really dampered our sport. And number two, it’s going to allow these travel ball coaches to develop their players and not worry about being a, I don’t want to call it an agent, but their sole purpose is to market kids to get a scholarship.
“Now I think the process will allow the kids to be selected for a scholarship much easier. Now I don’t have to sit on the phone and talk to a young kid that I have nothing in common with. It’s very frightening.
“So it’s back to the way it used to be. Now they can come on their visits their junior year though which is a change. But we can still have camps, but it’ll be good for parents. They won’t be spending all the damn money they’ve been spending trying to market their kids. But I think the development of our kids, they’ll be much more prepared when they get here now.”
Candrea believes that recruits committing to schools at younger and younger ages — a 12-year-old recently committed to North Carolina soccer — led to an increasing number of transfers at the collegiate level.
“So on both ends — the coach and the player — I think now the commitments are going to be stronger,” he said. “If you decide on a kid their junior year, you better live with it if you make a mistake.”
What about recruits who have already committed but have not reached their junior year of high school?
They aren’t allowed to contact coaches, either.
“For some [recruits], this means having committed to play at a program and then not being able to communicate with that coach for a few years,” said NFCA Executive Director Carol Bruggeman. “This will be challenging, but the bright line needed to be drawn and there are no exceptions.”
For more FAQ on the new recruiting rules, check out the NFCA’s website.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire