If one of the rules the NCAA is likely to approve this week had been in effect 10 years ago, Jeremy Pruitt might never have broken into college coaching.
One of the best defensive coordinators in the country and a rising star in the profession, Pruitt most likely would’ve never been afforded the opportunity to jump from Hoover High School, where he was the defensive coordinator, to Alabama, where he became the director of player development.
The bylaw, 11.4.3, has the potential to change how Alabama builds its support staff.
The rule reads, “In football, during a two-year period before a prospective student-athlete’s anticipated enrollment and a two-year period after the prospective student-athlete’s actual enrollment, an institution shall not employ (or enter into a contract for future employment with) an individual associated with the prospective student-athlete in any athletics department noncoaching staff position or in a strength and conditioning staff position.”
“Severely limits opportunities”
If the rule had applied in 2007, Alabama could have only hired Pruitt for an off-the-field staff position if it hadn’t recruited Hoover for two years prior to his hiring and couldn’t recruit a Hoover player for two years after his hiring.
The rule is intended to curb institutions from hiring an individual simply to have better footing in recruiting a prospective student-athlete. High school coaches feel the spirit of the rule is good, but the execution is lacking.
Take for instance Josh Niblett, head coach at Hoover. No college in the state of Alabama can afford not to recruit Hoover. So in essence, the rule severely limits Niblett’s ability to go into college coaching if he so chose.
“You’re going to see less high school coaches get opportunities,” Niblett said. “It is what it is. They’re trying to do everything they can to clean up recruiting as much as possible.
“I understand why they’re doing it, but if you have aspirations to coach in the college game, it severely limits opportunities.”
Changes coming to Alabama’s camps?
If another of the rules on the Division I Council’s agenda for this week goes into effect, it will drastically change the way the University of Alabama conducts is summer football camps.
Bylaw 188.8.131.52.5 reads, “In football, an institution or staff member shall not employ (either on a volunteer or paid basis) an individual associated with a recruited prospective student-athlete at the institution’s camp or clinic (including a coaches clinic or a camp or clinic involving non-prospects), unless at least two years (24 months) have elapsed since the prospective student-athlete’s initial full-time enrollment at the institution.”
The rules means Alabama basically can’t hire high school coaches for fear that a prospective student-athlete might be at those coaches’ high schools in the next two years.
UA head coach Nick Saban remains adamant that the new rule isn’t good for college football and is punitive to high school coaches.
Nick Saban disagrees with proposed rule
“I don’t understand the spirit of the rule,” Saban said. “Don’t really know why we’re doing it. I really don’t. I think sometimes we pass rules and don’t really understand the consequences, and there’s a lot of unintended consequences, and you think you’re solving one problem, but really in reality you’re going to create 10 more. It’s bad for football, I think it’s bad for high school coaches.
“We had a high school coach here the other day, I’m not going to mention any names, and his son’s a prospect and he used to be a college coach. So now he can never go work at a college, can never work a camp, we can’t come speak at clinics. We just had over a thousand coaches here at a clinic and had a great camp, which is the way that I feel we serve the high school coaches and have a chance to give back to them for all that they do in terms of the hard work that they do in developing players, helping us be able to evaluate players, giving us information about their players. Guess we can’t do anything. I really, I don’t get it, and I don’t understand it.
“I guess we’ll have to try to staff our camps another way. We also have a little kids camp here, certainly not a recruiting camp. There’s not even any high school players in it, and we’re not even certain that we can have high school coaches work that camp. That might be under the same scrutiny that if they have any relationship with a prospect then they can’t work our camp. That’s the way I understand it, that’s the way our compliance understands it. I guess we’ll figure it out when the rule passes or whatever.
“I guess I’m just too old-fashioned. If people didn’t help me when I was coming up as a coach and visit with me, and help me grow and learn as a coach, I would never be in the position that I’m in, or have the success that we’ve been able to have, even when it was just being a position coach. So I guess it’s my respect for the profession and the paranoia that everybody has that somebody’s doing something because a high school coach comes and works your camp is pretty ridiculous, but it is what it is.”
Reach Aaron Suttles at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.