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New NCAA rules give schools unfettered access to recruits

| Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, 9:58 p.m.

Pitt football player personnel director Dann Kabala rolls his eyes and shakes his head when discussing the less-restrictive NCAA regulations on recruiting.

He needs to exercise another body part to effectively prepare to recruit the Class of 2014: His texting finger.

The NCAA Board of Directors last month adopted rules that it says is based on common sense and allows coaches to talk to high school prospects as often as they believe is necessary.

Proposals 13-3 and 13-5A eliminate limits on the number of telephone calls, printed materials, and text and social media messages a school can send to recruits. The new rules take effect July 1.

Another change, Proposal 13-2, would allow schools to begin contacting prospects as early as July 1 after their sophomore year. The NCAA has tabled a vote until April.

“It will be easier for me to communicate with kids,” said Kabala, a Fox Chapel graduate.

It also could become more intrusive, he said.

“I don't think it's best for the kids, to be honest with you,” he said. “I don't think it's best for the kids and their families.”

At Penn State, coach Bill O'Brien is encouraging school officials to add recruiting personnel to handle an increased workload.

“Every day we spend part of the day on recruiting. How are we going to handle unlimited text messaging, unlimited visits to schools, whatever it may be?” O'Brien said. “We're never going to join the ranks of the wild, wild West, I can promise you that.”

Kabala admits the changes will help schools communicate with recruits who call them and don't get an answer because coaches are in meetings or at practice.

Under current rules, coaches are not allowed to call back at certain times of the year, creating the possibility that an out-of-town prospect might get lost trying to find Heinz Field or the South Side practice facility. The new rules allow coaches to call back.

The NCAA believes its new rulebook will be less petty.

“These new rules represent noteworthy progress toward what can only be described as more common-sense rules that allow schools more discretion in decision making,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said.

Kabala, who returned to Pitt in 2012 after four years in Arkansas' football administration, had his duties temporarily expanded over the past two months.

He was allowed to contact and visit prospects off campus after former defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable left for North Carolina State, leaving the staff one man short in a busy time of year.

“As soon as they hire a defensive coordinator, I won't be able to do the same things,” he said.

Kabala, a former assistant athletic director, football and track coach at Fox Chapel, was a Pitt graduate assistant under former coach Dave Wannstedt from 2005-07.

He said the biggest change in recruiting over the past decade is when schools begin evaluating prospects, some by their freshman season.

“It's getting pushed earlier and earlier,” Kabala said. “I think you make a lot of mistakes that way.”

Schools often fill their quota before looking at a prospect's senior video, he said.

“I think that's why schools have struggled because they take junior commitments and they are filled up before they are seniors. They don't even watch senior tape.”

Kabala said recruiting involves more than going to games and practices.

“The good recruiters talk to the high school coach, talk to the guidance counselor,” he said. “You talk to as many people as you can. Some secretaries have helped us out and given us good information.”

If the NCAA approves Proposal 13-2 and allows contact with recruits shortly after their sophomore year, it will create another set of problems and possibly lead to further reform, administrators believe.

West Virginia recruiting coordinator Ryan Dorchester said the next step could be an early signing period, either before or during the high school season.

“If a kid's good and he knows where he wants to go, why not let him enjoy his senior year and not have to worry about being recruited all year?” Dorchester said. “Not saying you have to forget about them, but you don't have to recruit them the way you recruit the rest of them. I think it'll help save money.”

Staff writers Scott Brown and John Harris contributed. Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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