By Brendan Ryan -BMR Golf Management

As I first reported via my Instagram ( March 14, the NCAA had proposed changes to the rule regarding contacts between prospective student athletes and coaches. This rule has since passed and goes into effect today (Wednesday, May 1, 2019). So, what are the new rules? According to Scott Schroeder, Head Men’s Golf Coach at North Florida and a member of NCAA Men’s Golf committee: “prospects will not be allowed to call or contact coaches until the June 15 of the summer after their sophomore year and make visits before August 1. Prospective student athletes will still be able to text or email coaches, but they should never get a response from them or even their coaches.”

We must also remember that the early commit phenomena might not be as big a problem as well think and instead maybe a result of the anchoring heuristic. My numbers suggest that only about 20 kids per year commit more than two and a half years in advance of a class of at least 900 total players who will go on to compete in college athletics. Although this works out to about 2%, news outlets provide disproportionate coverage. For example, on Golfweek, these stories make up at least a quarter of stories. These stories also seem to be extremely popular since, in one example, Rachel Heck’s commitment to Stanford got 1,400 shares.

In my own academic paper on the subject titled “Nudge: Are Junior Golfers being pushed towards specialization”, I report that in polling coaches 75% believe that athletes are committing too early. However only 60% report that this problem negatively impacts the Long-Term Athletic Development (LTAD) of student athletes. So, what do coaches think of the change? Here are some thoughts:

“While this signals a change; my estimation is that the NCAA has acted in the best interest of the prospective student athlete, giving them more time to mature and develop. This will lead to a wiser athlete making a decision which will benefit everyone”
-Greg Sands, Head men’s golf coach at Texas Tech and President of the Golf Coaches Association of America

“Slowing it down allows coaches to really identify talent and watching them develop. It brings the art back and returns us to what the process is really about; people finding the right fit”
-Steve Bradley, Head Mens Golf Coach University of South Florida

“From my perspective, I hope that this gives prospective student athletes more time to understand their options. I hope during this time they do their due diligence on mid major programs like us; because I think they will be shocked how many great options there are!”
-Ryan Jamison, Head men’s golf coach Florida Atlantic University

The rules do not completely close out the possibility of early commitments. Coaches are still able to hold camps, in which they can interact with players of all abilities and ages,BUT CANNOT communicate with swing instructors. There is no doubt that this will lead to some commitments. It may also lead to considerable tensions among coaches, who may interpret any early commitments as a clear violation of the rules. This may create some problems and sour some relationships.

When making the decision, the NCAA clearly wanted to protect student athletes, it also creates an obvious problem for coach; in the fall they now must organize and host visits, prepare and travel with their teams, handle all NCAA compliance and orient new players, while keeping an eye on rankings / results. Although this maybe in line with other sports like basketball or football, those sports often have 8+ assistant coaches to handle the melee of extra responsibilities. This will be a demanding transition for coaches and put teams without a full-time assistant coach at an extreme disadvantage.

While the rule intentions are clear, I think in the future it would be helpful for the NCAA to collect more information, including data on early commitments, as well as the thoughts of junior golfers and college coaches. I am positive in response to their inquiries, they will find a sport filled with people who are not only passionate about our game, but are sincerely interested in developing great golfers, as well as wonderful young people.

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