The NCAA imposes strict rules to ensure that all college baseball programs are on an even playing field with their recruiting efforts. While there are many reasons for this, creating an environment that facilitates a competitive level of play is at the top of the list. In the last 10 years, there have been 8 different institutions that have won the Division 1 College World Series, so these guidelines have proven to be effective.
Some institutions still have a leg up though, benefiting from larger budgets, state of the art facilities, quality equipment, and playing in well-known conferences. The recruiting rules that the NCAA imposes aren’t a perfect solution, but they do hold baseball programs to a set of guidelines for their recruiting efforts. When institutions are in violation of these rules, it can result in a loss of scholarships, championship appearance bans, coach firings, and in the worst case scenario, the death penalty of the program. When the NCAA comes down with the hammer, they do so with authority.
These rules are also in place to protect prospective college baseball players. The guidelines ensure that players make a college decision for the right reasons. Instead of being swayed by an extravagant official visit or other illegal recruiting practices, players will more likely make an educated college selection when they are recruited by the rules.
There are several aspects to a college baseball program’s recruiting efforts, and the NCAA aims to govern them all. Some of those areas include the timing of recruiting activities, official and unofficial visits, and baseball scholarships.
NCAA Baseball Recruiting Calendar
The most logical place to start is understanding the timing of when coaches can engage in recruiting activities. Recruiting calendars essentially determine when the recruiting activities can occur, the individuals that can take place, and the type of recruiting activities that can be conducted.
There are three periods that make up the NCAA Division 1 baseball recruiting calendar. The first is the contact period which is where coaches are not restricted with any of their recruiting efforts. During this time, coaches can freely meet with players face-to-face, attend games, and communicate with players over the phone and through writing. A majority of the contact period runs from the start of March through mid-August.
The second is the quiet period which primarily takes place from mid-October through the end of February. During the quiet period, coaches can meet with players, but it must occur on their campus. Similarly, a coach may watch a player perform, but it must take place on campus. Baseball programs typically try to take advantage of the quiet period by holding baseball camps on their campus. In doing so, coaches can still recruit in person while abiding by the quiet period restrictions.
The last is the dead period, and as the name suggests, coaches cannot have in person contact with players during this time. Coaches are limited to communicating with players specifically through phone conversations or writing.
Unlike that of Division 1, the recruiting timelines that Division 2 and Division 3 baseball programs are held to are far less complex. Outside of COVID-19 restrictions, these two divisions treat everything as a contact period, which allows coaches to freely recruit throughout the year. For more information and exact dates for the different periods, check out our NCAA Baseball Recruiting Calendar post.
Official and Unofficial Visits
Another core component of the recruiting process is official and unofficial visits. Visits are an incredible opportunity for a program to make a good impression. Not only will the player have an opportunity to get a closer look at the campus, but they will also meet potential future teammates to get a feel for team chemistry.
A baseball program must ensure that their conduct is in line with the NCAA rules throughout the visit process. It can be tempting to bend the rules a bit to ensure the player has a positive experience. We’ve seen several players commit the following day after having a quality visit at the school, so if done correctly, it can be a really effective way to land players.
There are two different types of visits; official and unofficial. Each are regulated by a different set of rules, and therefore, provide for a different experience for prospective college baseball players. NCAA baseball official visits are essentially a fully paid experience for the player, with some costs being covered for the accompanied family members. On the other hand, for an unofficial visit, the player is responsible for the expenses incurred.
NCAA Baseball Scholarships
Baseball scholarships are an important piece in attracting talented players to a program. Athletic related financial aid does cause some disparity though, even with the NCAA baseball recruiting rules in place. For programs that have a large budget, they are often fully funded, meaning that they are allotted the maximum number of scholarships the NCAA allows. Baseball programs that have smaller budgets are often only partially funded, so they have to stretch their limited number of scholarships a little further. Baseball is considered an equivalency sport, which means that scholarships can be divided up and offered to players as partial scholarships.
Division 1 baseball programs can have a maximum of 11.7 scholarships which can be offered to a maximum of 27 players on the roster. D1 baseball programs can have 35 players on their roster, which essentially leaves eight roster spots for walk on players. At the Division 1 level, the minimum scholarship amount a single player can receive is 25%.
The NCAA allows Division 2 baseball programs to offer 9 full scholarships. Unlike that of Division 1, D2 programs don’t have a minimum scholarship percent that they must offer players. As a result, a program can stretch their scholarships pretty far, especially if they are not fully funded. It’s not uncommon for players to receive a few hundred dollars to help out with some miscellaneous college expenses such as books.
Division 3 programs are not allowed to provide their players with any athletic related financial aid. These institutions have the ability to put together attractive academic related financial aid packages, which can even rival some program’s athletic scholarships. These scholarships are often based on academic performance, so it’s import to maintain a high GPA through high school and college to ensure eligibility for the aid.