Coaches Speak On “Limited” June Live Events
National Grassroots Editor
Ronnie has evaluated basketball talent for 20 years and has over 15 years of experience in publishing, editing and managing high school sports websites for companies such as Student Sports, ESPN and Ballislife. Ronnie compiles the FAB 50 National Team Rankings while serving as an account manager and consultant for grassroots event run by Ballislife and other companies, in addition to serving as a color commentator on high school broadcasts.
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New NCAA regulations created as a result of the fallout over the NCAA federal bribery and corruption trails will limit opportunities for student-athletes who attend schools which are not full NFHS members. The two June NCAA live recruiting periods were intended to allow college coaches to evaluate in a scholastic setting while re-connecting them more with high school coaches. However, the June Scholastic events developed in conjunction with the NFHS limit opportunities for many student-athletes and coaches are not happy about it.
The NCAA federal bribery and corruption scandal rocking college basketball over the past year involves such a small percentage of young players who strive to play basketball after high school by attaining a college scholarship. The corruption uncovered, so far, has one common theme: it involves nondescript individuals whom most of the general public doesn’t know and only the best of the elite players who soon will again be eligible to skip college altogether and whom a growing number of people feel should be compensated to play NCAA basketball in some form.
The terms of an athletic scholarship for a vast majority of student-athletes are more than fair. So, the irony of the NCAA’s new recruiting rules for live periods in June is its negative affect on some of that large group of kids looking for the best opportunity to play at a Division I college.
At the request of the NCAA (as a result of the fallout from the FBI investigation into many of its member programs), the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) along with the National High School Basketball Coaches Association (NHSBCA) created two weekend recruiting windows — June 21-23, 2019 and June 28-30, 2019 — for high school coaches employed by state association member schools to develop live recruiting events.
As has been rumored and discussed for two months among high schools coaches with Ballislife, it is confirmed the NFHS is sanctioning one school athletic governing body per state for the 2019 June live period events. Across the country, plenty of states have more than one athletic governing body. The states with multiple associations are often broken by groupings of public and private schools, and some whose members are independent programs and don’t play for state championships.
“There is only one member [association] in each state that has NFHS membership,” Theresia D. Wynns, the director of sports and officials for the NFHS, told ESPN’s Jeff Borzello via email. “Only the schools that are a part of the members of that NFHS member can participate in the June evaluation period.”
Needless to say, there are plenty of talented players whose school doesn’t fall into the category of being the one official NFHS member state association in a particular state. Some of the finest basketball in the country is played at schools which are part of a governing body currently considered an affiliate member of the NFHS, thus making their association ineligible to create or host June live period events.
Fallout of the June Live Period Events
The interpretation of these new NCAA recruiting rules (which altered the July recruiting calendar and created two live June weekends for scholastic-oriented events) has created some unhappy coaches and confusion as to whom can actually participate and how the certification process works.
In North Carolina, association membership is separated by public and private schools. There are just under 100 schools that are part of the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association (NCISAA) and over 400 schools that belong to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA). Under the current setup, NCISAA member schools won’t be allowed to participate or host live recruiting events for college coaches. NCISAA member schools have been particularly strong in boys basketball in recent seasons and have had multiple programs appear in the FAB 50 National Team Rankings. It can be easily argued the NCISAA produces more than half of the state’s D1 level talent despite being approximately one quarter of the size of the NCHSAA.
Not only does that make NCISAA coaches unhappy, it limits the opportunities for its players to be seen by college coaches compared to their public school counterparts. A similar scenario for college basketball hopefuls in North Carolina will take place in other states.
According to a statement released on the NFHS website, the support for the criteria for these June live events, “has underscored the importance of maintaining an education-based focus on event formats and host sites.”
Are these new June live events discriminatory in nature towards certain students’ educational opportunities? Why should one student not be allowed an opportunity another student is afforded based on what accredited school it attends, specially if that same accredited school has been granted membership into an association the NFHS recognizes in some fashion?
Coaches Speak On New June Events
“There is some disconnect between the North Carolina public school administrators and coaches and the private schools,” said Greensboro Day (Greensboro, N.C.) assistant coach Jeff Smith. “They don’t want us (the NCISAA programs) to be sanctioned. From what I understand the NFHS stance is, if they sanction a tournament or event and allow non-members to participate, they have no way or enforcing rules or punishing if there are sportsmanship issues, or something of that nature.”
In the two states with the most high schools, Texas and California, one has multiple associations and the other only has one. In Texas, the University Interscholastic League (UIL) is the only NFHS member association in the state, so kids who play for Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) and Texas Christian Athletic League (TCAL) schools won’t be able to play in front of college coaches in June 2019 under the new recruiting format. California public, charter, private and parochial schools are part of the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), which the NFHS officially recognizes.
Besides the NCISAA and TAPPS, there are other prominent associations around the country with strong basketball programs which are not the one official NFHS member state association in its respective state. That’s not even including the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC), which includes boarding schools containing some post-graduates and plays some of the finest basketball in the country below the NCAA level. The recruiting calendar has changed, but it’s not the same for each potential NCAA student-athlete and there is little commentary among coaches that the changes were beneficial to these same student-athletes.
According to the NFHS’s statement, the criteria for hosting a sanctioned June event was developed by NFHS staff and several state association administrators, and reviewed by the NFHS Board of Directors, NHSBCA and key administrators from the NCAA.
The recruiting calendar changes were obviously made rather quickly and without serious input from the college coaches who must recruit student-athletes or the key stakeholders in a players’ recruitment.
“The changes were a reaction to the FBI stuff, not thought out well, and approved by someone who doesn’t understand the recruiting system and how AAU (grassroots basketball) works,” said one prominent college coach with experience in coaching at the grassroots and high school level who chose to remain anonymous. “We have to figure out what kids we can see with one flight and it may be one. Coaches are going to be scattering everywhere. Some kids and parents are going to think ‘if the head coach is not there, he must not be a priority recruit.’ We want to see kids under one roof, so we’re not happy.”
Confusion And Unanswered Questions
Not only is there some confusion on the sanctioning of these June events, there could be some confusion as to which governing body has the final jurisdiction for schools that belong to more than one association. DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.), which annually produces D1 bound talent, is currently ranked No. 4 in the FAB 50 National Rankings and is one of the most well-respected high school basketball programs in the country. The Stags, however, belong to more than one association. They are members of the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) and play for a Maryland private schools state title as part of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA), which is a boys’ sports conference for private high schools in Central Maryland. So which organization has jurisdiction over the other with regards to DeMatha Catholic? How about other schools that belong to and follow the rules of more than one association?
“We’re trying to figure that all out, we don’t know the answer,” said DeMatha Catholic head coach Mike Jones, who also has vast experience as a coach for USA Basketball’s youth teams. “It will be interesting to see if there is any adjustment in policy (with regards to June events). This might have a rough start, but the point is not to try and take away opportunities for kids and keep their best interests at heart.”
Pros And Cons Of New June Events
• College coaches can evaluate a potential recruit in a high school environment during their own off-season, when they don’t have to worry or prepare as much for their own college seasonal activity.
• Kids who don’t play on a travel team or can’t afford to travel could potentially be evaluated by a college coach.
• Kids who thrive with their high school team and may not perform as well in a grassroots or camp setting could have a better opportunity to make a favorable impression.
• Coaches and administrators that have a greater depth of knowledge and experience with a player’s academic profile could be an asset to a college coach.
• The new June recruiting calendar is available to some players and not available to others, even though the a majority of the latter attend educationally accredited schools.
• College coaches can watch and evaluate kids from associations such as TAPPS, NCISAA and NEPSAC during other live periods, so what’s a great reason in making June off limits?
• College coaches want to view as many quality prospects under one roof as possible and playing for a travel ball team at a quality event is more conducive and economical for them.
• The relationship between travel ball coaches and players often begins earlier than high school. Just because the high school coach is now injected back into the recruiting system, doesn’t mean said high school coach will increase his positive influence on the recruiting process or increase the player’s trust of his knowledge of it.
• Some high school coaches simply don’t want to be involved in the process, because there is a sentiment around the country many educators, even ones not involved in athletics, are severely underpaid.
• If the rules stay in affect over a period of time, you will see an increase in the number of transfers from neighborhood schools to power programs in order to take advantage of existing relationships coaches at power programs have with college coaches and the format of the new live period.
In summary, the negative points far outweigh the positives and makes it seem as though the NFHS is looking after some other self serving interests, rather than the interests of as many student-athletes from around the country as possible.