On April 13-14, the NCAA Division I Council will meet in Indianapolis. One of the items on the agenda is a proposal that would hopefully curtail the early recruiting epidemic in college lacrosse. The proposal would ban all contact, including phone calls, between college coaches and prospective student-athletes until Sept. 1 of their junior year of high school. The following is a letter written by US Lacrosse CEO Steve Stenersen, and sent to the council members, supporting the adoption of the proposal.

Members of the NCAA Division I Council:

On behalf of US Lacrosse, the sport’s 450,000-member national governing body, I want to reiterate our organization’s strong endorsement of the full legislative proposal introduced by the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) and supported by the Intercollegiate Men’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IMLCA) to designate September 1 of a prospective student athlete’s (PSA) junior year as the initial date for contact between a college coach and a PSA.

Concern about the negative impact of early recruiting has become the most talked-about issue facing the future of lacrosse, and I’m sure you are aware of the overwhelming public opinion decrying the practice.  Please find enclosed a copy of the March, 2017, issue of US Lacrosse Magazine, which includes a cover story on the subject.  The IWLCA and IMLCA are to be commended for their historic collaboration, which has resulted in such a thoughtful proposal on behalf of the institutions they represent and student-athletes they serve.

The positive culture of youth lacrosse is being destroyed and the best interests of children are being ignored as a result of early recruiting practices, which now require young athletes to engage in the college selection process long before they are physically, cognitively and emotionally prepared to do so.

Because of the recruiting landscape in lacrosse, young athletes are being encouraged to sport-specialize at younger ages despite overwhelming medical and psychological evidence confirming that over-use injuries and burn-out are driving kids from youth sport in record numbers.  Parents now feel compelled to accelerate the youth lacrosse experience in order to best prepare and position their children for a college recruiting timeline in which PSAs as young as 14 are making verbal commitments despite never having played high school lacrosse or established their academic standing.

Sadly, even PSAs who verbally commit at an early age can’t escape the pressures of early recruiting because, ironically, coaches understand that young PSAs can be persuaded to change their minds.  It’s sad but understandable for such behavior to occur within the billion dollar enterprises of basketball and football, but there is no lucrative professional lacrosse option.  As the NCAA tag line indicates, college lacrosse players will be going pro in something other than sports.

A byproduct of this dysfunctional culture is an erosion of low-cost, community-based youth lacrosse programs that provide greater access to the sport, as well as a dramatic expansion of more expensive club-based programs and recruiting tournaments that provide competitive offerings for children as young as age 6 but, in many cases, are making the sport even less inclusive.

It’s my understanding that compliance concerns have been expressed regarding the proposal’s prohibition of phone and text communication.  However, allowing this exception would create a significant loophole, undermine the intended outcome of the proposed legislation and further perpetuate early recruiting practices.  Focusing on how to regularly analyze a coach’s phone records in order to assure compliance misses the point entirely.  Societal laws and regulations do not assure 100% compliance at all times.  But they are overwhelmingly successful in shaping human behavior and are based on the best interests of those they are intended to protect.

The NCAA’s recent focus on deregulation, particularly with respect to revenue-producing sports, along with the recent four-year moratorium on new legislation, has exposed destructive trends within non-revenue sports, which collectively represent the vast majority of NCAA student-athletes.  Ironically, it is these student-athletes who, arguably, best represent the ideals and principles the NCAA was originally formed to establish and perpetuate.

The proposal submitted by the IWLCA and IMLCA is an effective solution that will restore and solidify those ideals and principles within college lacrosse, and I urge you to prioritize the best interests of thousands of PSAs and the culture of an entire sport by voting in favor of this much-needed legislative reform at your April meeting.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Steve Stenersen
CEO

IWLCA Early Recruiting Action Center

IWLCA Early Recruiting Action Center was developed to provide more information on the topic and to sign the support petitiion.

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