March 23, 2016

NCAA to Discuss IWLCA Recruiting Reforms in April

by Justin Feil | | Twitter

The lacrosse season is just getting into conference play, but it's already crunch time for a pair of legislative proposals.

Division I coaches in the IWLCA, backed by Division I coaches in the IMLCA, are hopeful that the NCAA will adopt their first proposal that would revise the recruiting calendar and a second proposal that would set the initial date for all communication with prospective student-athletes and their families to Sept. 1 of their junior year.

"From what I've gathered, our proposal is on the agenda for the April meeting," said Duke women's coach Kerstin Kimel, who is co-chair of the IWLCA Recruiting Issues Committee with Penn coach Karin Corbett. "Whether or not it's going to be voted on, discussed, we're not exactly sure. We're trying to figure that out ourselves."

The NCAA Student-Athlete Experience Committee will meet April 6-8 and the larger Division I Council reconvenes April 7-9 in Indianapolis to make recommendations and vote on proposals. All new legislation is expected to be finalized at a June meeting.

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"We were encouraged with what we were hearing with the initial subcommittee stuff," said Princeton men's coach Chris Bates, chair of the IMLCA Recruiting Advisory Committee. "That's a smaller, more lacrosse-centric group. The larger one, it's people from schools not even affiliated with conferences that have lacrosse. That becomes more of a great unknown."

The first step is passage from the NCAA Student-Athlete Experience Committee (SAEC), a subcommittee that reports and makes recommendations to the NCAA Division I Council. The SAEC has reviewed both proposals.

"There is preliminary support from the subcommittee for the proposals," said Jennifer Condaras, who sits on the SAEC and is chair of the smaller Student-Athletic Experience Sports-Specific Subcommittee.

Reviewing the national time demands issue for student-athletes is the top legislative focus of the membership and will be at the next few Council and Autonomy Conference meetings. It's the top priority because it affects all collegiate sports.

"My committee in February spent the majority of time reviewing the data from the [Student-Athlete Advisory Committee] survey and assisting with the prioritization of categories within the time demands review," Condaras said.

At its February meeting, the SAEC did recommend the women's lacrosse calendar proposal that would increase the number and length of dead periods. However, the Division I Council did not adopt it as non-controversial legislation. (It did adopt as non-controversial legislation the elimination of the requirement of PSAT, SAT, PLAN or ACT scores before an institution may offer an official visit to a prospective student-athlete.). Adopting the calendar proposal would have put it on track to go into effect in August 2016, as college coaches had hoped initially.

The council voted to submit the proposal into the 2016-17 legislative cycle. That step would give them more time to consider the proposal, which would delay its inception. Minutes from the February meeting read that: "The proposal's effective date would be August 1, 2017."

"There could have been some confusion on the particulars of the proposal," Condaras said. "My committee has asked the Legislative Committee to review the proposal coming up in the next two weeks."

If the Legislative Committee agrees the calendar proposal is non-controversial, it will be sent back to the Division I Council for reconsideration at its April or June meeting, and it is possible it could still go into effect August 2016.

"We want it passed," Kimel said. "We do expect the calendar to pass. That'll be a start. Then we won't have recruiting tournaments in January. The Sept. 1 date, we'll keep working to get it passed."

The Sept. 1 date is a more significant proposal, and likely tougher to pass this year. But it has come to light again with the first commitments from eighth-graders this year. Brennan O'Neill of Bay Shore/Brightwaters, N.Y., verbally committed to Penn State last Thursday night. Florida eighth-grader Caitlyn Wurzburger became the earliest verbal commitment ever reported for either gender when she committed in January to Syracuse.

"On the council, there are a lot of lacrosse schools, and there are a fair amount that do have women's lacrosse," Kimel said. "A couple of the people that are involved: the faculty rep from Virginia, Kim Phillips from Northwestern, Brian Shannon from Texas Tech – he's been behind our stuff – there's enough people on the DI Council who can talk about this.

"Our job in this is to do our best to identify people that have lacrosse at their school or in their conference, that are decision makers, and to really help them understand what we're trying to do and how dire the situation is in our sport right now. We have eighth-graders on both sides committing."

According to minutes from the February meeting, the SAEC "received an update on the sport-specific subcommittee's review of the Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association recruiting proposals and will continue to review the requests after the collection of feedback from additional coaches associations regarding the proposed changes." The committee also is considering changes to the men's lacrosse calendar.

"The question is going to be, is the NCAA going to be willing to look at our proposals for lacrosse and consider them just for lacrosse?" Kimel said. "Or is this going to be addressed on a larger scale?"

Historically, the membership has not been in favor of adopting sports-specific legislation, but the governance structure, under which legislation is considered and voted on, has been restructured after a four-year moratorium on new legislation.

"Every organization that is trying to put something forth has had the same exact struggles with the NCAA in terms of trying to figure it out," Kimel said. "There's no manual on, this is how you put something forward and this is the process that you're going to go through. It's very vague. Whether that's a byproduct of the entire structure or it's intentionally that way, I don't know. Other sports are super frustrated with the whole process."

The NCAA won't pass anything without doing their due diligence. Once legislation is passed, Condaras said, it can't just be taken away. There is hesitance to rush into any new legislation like the Sept. 1 proposal. They have surveyed other sports on the proposal.

"Basically we determined there were good concepts within the proposal and wanted to see if there was an appetite for these recommended changes from other national coaches' associations," Condaras said. "Because there are so many moving parts with this and it represents significant changes, this proposal will not be viewed as non-controversial. I anticipate the Division I Council will approve to submit it into the 2016-17 legislative cycle. I think after this April meeting, we'll have a much better feeling of where we are and how this is going to be reviewed and talked about moving forward."

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