Protecting Your High School Athletes During College Recruiting

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Athletic administrators, high school coaches, and athletes know that college recruiting can be a major benefit for athletes and high school programs. Yet, many may not always be aware of the specific rules and guidelines for the college recruiting process. In efforts to educate and protect high school athletes during the college recruiting process, this blog post will provide insight on the recent updates to NCAA recruiting rules.

Why It’s Important to Follow NCAA Rules

Before getting into the specific rules, it is important that administrators, coaches, athletes, and athletes’ parents understand the importance of following NCAA rules and regulations. Recruiting guidelines are provided by the NCAA in order to make sure that all universities have equal opportunities within the college recruiting process and that no illegal activities are occurring, like large universities providing players with money or benefits that small schools couldn’t afford. Rules are also in place to help high school athletes focus on their sport and academics.

If colleges or athletes are caught breaking NCAA’s rules, there are a variety of punishments. For athletes, they may have to sit out some games or lose their scholarship or collegiate eligibility entirely. Penalties for universities can be even more intense, ranging from warnings to shutting down entire programs.

Recruiting Rules During Freshman & Sophomore Years

The NCAA has different rules depending on the athlete’s grade status. For athletes in Freshman and Sophomores classes, college coaches are allowed to send brochures and questionnaires, but they are not allowed to call athletes on the phone or send them written pieces of recruiting mail. That said, athletes are allowed to call college coaches, but if they leave a message, coaches are not allowed to call them back.

Athletes in this age range are allowed to take unofficial visits to any school of their choosing, but again, this must be set up entirely by the student-athlete. At no point can a college coach reach out to an athlete and set up an unofficial visit.

When taking an unofficial visit, athletes should be well aware of the specific NCAA rules of the process. An athlete or their family members must pay for the visit – at no point can a college pay for transportation or lodging during an unofficial visit. The only perk or expense that a student-athlete should accept from a college during an unofficial visit is three passes to a home sporting event.

Junior Year

Starting on September 1st of an athlete’s junior year, college coaches can send high school athletes a wide variety of material on their university and sports program, including media booklets, schedules of games or activities, personally written letters, clips from newspapers, university or academic material, as well as other informative items.

As of 2016, the NCAA has given permission for division 1 cross country, football, track, and swimming coaches to contact potential recruits via electronic messaging – such as text or social media –  starting September 1st as well.

Starting July 1st after a high school athlete’s junior year, college coaches are allowed to contact or reach out to potential recruits in person. While this may sound fairly general, the NCAA specifically distinguishes what contact is and isn’t. For example, if a college coach runs into a potential recruit at any point prior to July 1st after their junior year and says anything beyond a simple “Hello,” this is considered a contact and is thus illegal.

Yet, after July 1st, a college coach may speak with high school athletes beyond a basic hello. They are also allowed to make a phone call per week to potential recruits (athletes are still able to call coaches as often as they’d like).

Senior Year

By a high school athlete’s senior year, they are allowed to take up to five official visits to college campuses of their choice. The college can pay the travel and lodging expenses associated with these visits, yet the visits themselves can not last longer than forty-eight hours. Also, college coaches will need to have official copies of ACT/SAT scores and a high school transcript in order for these visits to occur.

Throughout the entire process, college coaches are allowed to offer scholarships to high school athletes. It is important to keep in mind that coaches may not be able to offer athletes scholarships in person if they are not at the proper age level. In order to follow rules, college coaches may offer scholarships through an athlete’s high school or tournament team coach.

As you can see, there are a wide variety of rules that the NCAA enforces in order to keep the recruiting process fair for colleges and student-athletes. While some of these rules may be strict, they not only have a purpose but also can carry hefty penalties. So in order to watch out for the student-athlete’s future, athletic administrators, coaches, and parents should stay up to date on NCAA recruiting rules so that they can protect high school athletes during the college recruiting process.

Learn More

Ohio University’s Online Master of Athletic Administration (MAA) program specializes in developing interscholastic Athletic Directors, building on the students’ passion for serving young student-athletes and running a highly-successful athletic department. Ohio University is a pioneer in sports education. By establishing the first academic program in the field of sports administration, this online program is recognized today as the premier professional training program for candidates seeking careers in the sports industry.


Ohio University Blog, “Benefits of Expanding College Athletic Facilities”
College Sports, “NCAA National Collegiate Athletic Association Recruiting Guidelines and Rules”
National Collegiate Athletic Association, “Recruiting Calendars”
USA Today High School Sports, “NCAA opens door for unlimited texting between recruits, football coaches”