The American Baseball Coaches Association this week brought together a group of 16 coaches in Charlotte to discuss a variety of issues related to recruiting, especially the recruiting calendar and the increasingly common practice of recruiting high school underclassmen.
Coaches in attendance at the meeting said it was productive and they crafted a new recruiting calendar that would decrease the amount of time coaches are allowed to be on the road recruiting. While they were able to make headway on an improved recruiting calendar, their efforts to tackle the issue of recruiting high school underclassmen was derailed by the possibility of broader NCAA changes.
Baseball coaches had begun to examine a variety of ideas to delay the beginning of the recruiting process, which has shifted to younger and younger players in recent years. However, any measures adopted for baseball would be superseded by new NCAA rules. The NCAA is expected to adopt new rules allowing juniors to go on official recruiting visits and would prohibit unofficial recruiting visits until Sept. 1 of a player’s sophomore year.
As a result, the baseball coaches felt it wasn't prudent to create any proposals designed to delay the recruiting process until the NCAA's own process plays out.
Still, the coaches in attendance and ABCA executive director Craig Keilitz were pleased with the results of their discussions, which lasted more than 10 hours.
"It was a great step forward," Keilitz said. "I was impressed with the first-class manner of the coaches to get this done. They were all eager to be part of possible solutions to make our game better. I couldn't be prouder of our coaches."
Keilitz said he hopes to distribute to all Division I coaches this week example calendars for the next few years, along with a short rational for every proposed change. The ABCA will also survey the coaches on each proposed change and solicit feedback. The changes will be discussed in greater detail at the association's convention next month and, if the membership is able to form a consensus, it would then proceed into the NCAA's legislative process to be voted on at the 2019 NCAA Convention.
The panel was carefully assembled to have a variety of opinions and kinds of programs represented. The group included coaches from Power Five conferences and midmajor conferences, as well as a wide geographic range. That diversity of opinion produced some fierce discussion early in the meeting, but the group was ultimately able to come to a strong consensus. They held four votes, one for each category of proposed change. One vote was unanimous, two had one dissenting vote and one had two dissenting votes.
The group sought to make decisions not with what was best for their own program, but what was best for the game. They wanted to address the issues with their current players in mind first, then considering in equal measure what was best for the welfare of coaches and prospective players.
"The hard thing for everyone to do is you're thinking about how is this going to affect my program, but you have to put that fourth in the process if you want to do it right," Texas Christian coach Jim Schlossnagle said. "We went from having very wide opinions to having unanimous votes. The group was awesome. It was very well represented and every voice was heard."
The revised recruiting calendar includes a shorter period in the fall for recruiting, some breaks during the summer and the creation of a small dead period at the start of the College World Series.
Now, the plan will have to be presented to the rest of the Division I coaches. Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said he is optimistic that it will be well received.
"It's just a matter of laying it out for everyone," he said. "Just laying it out and presenting it, taking on opinions of what others want. You have to come up with a plan that fits the majority of what the college game wants. If you can do that, there's some satisfaction to it."