NCAA to prevent Division I Lacrosse Commitments until Junior Year

Henry Malone

Division I lacrosse coaches can no longer communicate with underclassmen players, having a big impact on both committed and uncommitted players.

On April 14, the NCAA adopted a joint proposal for both men’s and women’s college lacrosse restricting Division I coaches from having any contact with prospective recruits until September 1 of their junior year.

Many Malvern lacrosse players have committed to play Division I lacrosse in college, so this proposal definitely has an impact on future college athletes. A recent trend towards early recruiting led to non-binding verbal commitments made by players before they played their first high school game, according to USLacrosse Magazine.

The new rule means that Division I colleges may not make off-campus contact with students before junior year. They may not reach out through telephone calls, social media or unofficial campus visits. Club and high school coaches also may not circumvent these rules by communicating colleges’ verbal offers to students, according to a Q&A published in Long Island Newsday.

Head lacrosse coach Mr. John McEvoy believes that this rule is good news for both students and colleges. “My gut says it’s a good thing,” he said. “It’s the old way of doing things.”

Prior to this rule, some schools would pounce on underclassmen players as soon as possible to try and get them before another college felt comfortable approaching the student.

“I think the college coaches will be happy about it because now [colleges are] on an equal playing field. I think that’s what they’re looking to accomplish,” McEvoy said.

However, McEvoy is still worried that this new proposal may not be as strong as it needs to be. “All that said, that’s only if these rules are solid and there’s no two ways around it and if they are enforced,” he said.

McEvoy also is concerned with how the NCAA will handle underclassmen who aren’t juniors yet who have already verbally committed.

“There’s a lot of those kids out there,” McEvoy said. “No one can talk to each other? That’s kind of strange.”

Athletic Director Kurt Ruch agrees with McEvoy’s point of view. “I think it’s a great thing for schools,” Ruch said. “I would expect that other sports will follow.”

Ruch believes that the new rule will eliminate one college from having an advantage over another, and the student athletes will get more of an opportunity to grow and get acclimated to high school sports.

“It kind of balances the playing field,” Ruch said. “It gives [the players] more of an opportunity to get their feet wet and establish themselves.”

Senior lacrosse player Mike Fay committed to Notre Dame University for lacrosse before his sophomore year. He said his experience would have changed a lot had this rule been in place then.

“It would’ve been completely different,” Fay said. “I wouldn’t have been able to talk to the coaches at all.”

During his recruiting process, Fay said he was in constant communication with his coaches.

“I talked to them a lot before and during the process to get to know them better, and seeing if it was the right fit for me,” he said. “From then I’d give them a call every couple of weeks or so just to check in and build the relationship that we started early on in my high school career.”  

With this new rule in place, Fay believes that more of the responsibility to get recruited will now be put on the players.

“So, up until your junior year, from what it looks like, it’s basically just up to you and how you play and how you carry yourself [to get recruited].”

An important impact to consider, however, is how the new rule will affect multi-sport athletes. With the commitment rush expected to occur following Sept 1, several athletes may forgo playing fall and winter sports to visit colleges.

Sophomore lacrosse and basketball player Donnie Gayhardt, however, does not think this will pose a problem for him.

“For my situation I don’t think I’ll have to be put in that position,” Gayhardt said. “I have a really good club coach who can connect me [with coaches].”

Gayhardt hopes to play lacrosse in college and hopes that McEvoy will build connections with interested coaches prior to the recruiting start date.

“Coach McEvoy will talk to the coaches for me, even though I can’t directly speak to them,” Gayhardt said. “So I think I’ll already have those connections set up.”

Gayhardt will try to visit schools during the fall, leaving himself open to play basketball as well as get recruited to play Division I lacrosse.

“We’re thrilled about the outcome and thankful for the NCAA Division I Council’s wisdom in approving such an important proposal,” US Lacrosse CEO Steve Stenersen said in a statement published in US Lacrosse magazine. “While no legislation is perfect, this decision represents a significant shift toward the best interests of young prospective student-athletes, their parents and the culture of our sport.”