How COVID-19 has affected the 2020 recruiting calendar
The NCAA applied its most definitive rule to NCAA recruiting activity Friday morning, suspending all recruiting efforts until April 15. Why might the NCAA have selected that date, and what affect does that have on Indiana recruiting?
The NCAA, and, more broadly, the entire sports world, has entered uncharted territory with the continued spread of COVID-19, otherwise widely referred to as the coronavirus, and in the days since Wednesday, sports have come to screeching halt in an effort to avoid crowding and to “flatten the curve.”
IU Athletics confirmed Thursday that all winter and sports events for the remainder of the 2019-20 seasons would be canceled, while the Big Ten announced in a statement Friday morning that all organized athletic activity would be suspended until at least April 6. The IHSAA held on as long as it could to the boys' basketball tournaments scheduled for Saturday but was forced to postpone once schools began to close.
Non-essential travel has widely been discouraged throughout the week, and the aspect of collegiate sports that requires the most travel is recruiting, as prospects and coaches hit the recruiting trail often in the spring.
Steps had been taken daily in terms of the NCAA’s grip on restricting recruiting as quickly as possible. Ohio State head coach Ryan Day was one of the first head coaches to self-impose restrictions in recruiting, canceling all unofficial and official visits scheduled through April 20 and urging his staff to follow the University's temporary travel guidelines. The Big Ten followed the next day by announcing simultaneously that all conference and non-conference play was suspended and all on- and off-campus recruiting activity was to be halted “for the foreseeable future.”
We will suspend all official and unofficial visits to our campus through April 20 while we continue to monitor and adjust to today’s changing issues. In addition, our coaches will not recruit off campus this spring while we follow the university’s new temporary travel guidelines.— Ryan Day (@ryandaytime) March 11, 2020
It wasn’t until Friday afternoon that some definition was applied to the NCAA’s recruiting rules. The organization announced that recruiting activity is suspended until April 15 – the first day of the Division I Basketball signing period and the first day of the first 2020 Division I Football evaluation period. The NCAA will re-evaluate at that time, it said.
The unexpected period with no recruiting activity is considered a dead period, which means no in-person contact betweens coaches and prospects. That might sound like language used when discussing a contagious virus, but it’s also just typical language used to restrict players and coaches from meeting on or off campus and limit communication to electronics during certain times of the year.
The time between the present and April 15 provides somewhat of a buffer for the NCAA to eventually decide what to do during a far more crucial stretch of both the Division I football and basketball recruiting calendars. Losses in recruiting during the time dedicated to the new dead period include half of the basketball recruiting period leading up to signing day – when coaches could easily mingle with recruits – and football spring visits on campus during a quiet period.
So what does that mean in terms of what schools like Indiana are trying to do?
First, as mentioned above, April 15 is the first day of the regular signing period for Division I Basketball. The NCAA obviously primarily wants to avoid digging into the signing period at all. As many schools understand, things in recruiting change on a daily basis, so working to ensure prospects can sign on time would likely be prime.
Surely, there could also be a way for prospects to sign without the signing period needing to be adjusted. However, there are is a recruiting period scheduled within the signing period, which is designed for some of the most crucial work to be done when considering prospects who haven’t signed and have until May 20 to make that decision.
Present-April 14: NCAA-mandated dead period
April 15-May 20: Regular signing period (early signing period was Nov. 13-Nov. 20)
April 17-April 30: Recruiting period
April 17-April 19: Evaluation period
April 24-April 26: Evaluation period
Where Indiana is invested is with five-star 2021 Evansville guard Khristian Lander, who is expected to reclassify to 2020.
“If a prospective student-athlete reclassifies his/her graduation year (e.g., junior to senior), the prospective student-athlete can sign during the NLI signing year prior to the upcoming fall enrollment,” NationalLetter.org states. “The institution should retain supporting documentation to show the prospective student-athlete is on track to graduate early.”
IU-commit Khristian Lander says if he stays on track, he could be done with his high school requirements by the end of May, and there's a possibility he could be a June arrival. Expect him in 2020.— Nick Baumgart (@Nick_Baumgart) March 8, 2020
Will play AAU this spring and if Indy Heat advances to Peach Jam. #iubb
Now, none of this is expected to be in jeopardy, and clearly the NCAA is just buying itself some time and applying tangibility to the terms of restriction before deciding what it should do in the case that COVID-19 isn’t at a safe level by April 15, but this is simply where Indiana is invested in what the NCAA eventually decides.
It turns out April 15 is a good date of intersection between the two primary recruiting calendars. The football recruiting calendar is currently in a quiet period, which means electronic contact can be made and recruits can visit college campuses but coaches cannot visit recruits or their parents off campus. That period ends April 14.
The reason the 45-day quiet period exists is because teams are entering spring practices, so coaches typically aren’t available to go on the road anyway. These visits are also crucial to developing relationships with 2021 prospects who are priorities for the program.
When that quiet period ends, though, a 45-day evaluation period begins. It’s one of two evaluation periods included on the recruiting calendar all year, and coaches receive 168 of their 210 total evaluation “days” during this short time. “Days” are considered any time a coach makes a visit to a high school or area a recruit is performing and watches that recruit and/or checks his academics. (For example if, on the same day of the 2020 calendar, a coach travels to watch one player and another coach from the same staff travels to see another player somewhere else, the program just used two “days.”)
Coaches are also not allowed to speak with players during evaluation days. A coach could text, call or email after the event but no in-person contact can be made.
The reason that recruits are allowed to visit and coaches are able to speak to them on campus for events like a spring game – Indiana’s was scheduled for April 17, within this evaluation period, but was canceled Thursday – is because the gaps between the use of evaluation “days” are filled with a quiet period.
The evaluation period is crucial every year for coaches’ efforts in deciding who deserves an offer, who they want to visit for camps in the summer or who they might want to take when signing season comes around.
With only 42 evaluation “days” offered during the three-month evaluation period between September and November later on, this 45-day window is important for Division I coaches.
Present-April 14: NCAA-mandated dead period (when recruits typically make spring visits)
April 15-May 31: Evaluation period (days not used to evaluate are quiet period days)
June 1-June 21: Quiet period (teams host summer camps and official visits)
June 22-July 24: Dead period
July 25-July 31: Dead period (final official visits before seasons begin)
For Indiana, besides canceling the spring game and postponing visits from prospective recruits, like Ohio 2022 athlete Kaden Saunders, in March and early-April, perhaps the most significant effect it might have on Indiana’s recruiting efforts is narrowing the window for visits from potential transfers that will round out the Hoosiers’ 2020 class.
One example is Arkansas transfer running back Chase Hayden, who told TheHoosier.com on March 3 that he would be visiting Indiana on March 27. Hayden won’t be able to make that visit, but he told TheHoosier.com he plans to schedule another visit with Indiana when he can.