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Blog - Recruiting, Auburn, & The Chizik Rule

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 14, 2010


With all the new changes to the recruiting rules, how will this affect Auburn and Gene Chizik's creative practice?


By Justin P. Saia

The New Age of Recruiting

Coaches forced to be creative amidst new NCAA regulations

AUBURN - Don’t look now, but Auburn’s shiny new recruiting bus may have just been ordered back to the garage, as the NCAA again seeks to stifle innovation and root out any semblance of ingenuity, creativity, and recruiting prowess.

The Tiger Prowl began in 2009 as a means for a young Auburn coaching staff to blaze the recruiting trail in style, while introducing themselves to fans and recruits alike across the state of Alabama. Rolling from high school to high school in stretch limo Hummers, coaches hoped to make a strong enough impression to convince highly talented recruits to join the caravan bound for the Plains.

Following the successes of a top-five recruiting class, Auburn head coach Gene Chizik and Company unveiled Tiger Prowl version 2.0 in late April, complete with sleek, state-of-the-art motor coaches, adorned with images of infamous former Tigers flanking the Auburn logo and emblazoned with Chizik’s chiseled mug.

Following a successful four-day barnstorm across Alabama, which lead to stops in Mobile, Montgomery, Gadsden, Birmingham, and Huntsville, the NCAA has moved quickly to vanquish Auburn’s headline-garnering high school recruiting tour by passing a rule that prohibits schools from sending more than two coaches to visit a recruit in the same day during the spring evaluation period.

Auburn, Georgia, Florida, and Florida State join an array of BCS schools notorious for sending mass caravans of assistant coaches to on-campus recruiting visits. The rule change is an attempt by the NCAA to protect the spirit of the evaluation period.

It has become evident that the empty suits in Indianapolis have no affinity for those who choose to push the recruiting envelope and are becoming increasingly proactive in their responses.

Chizik finds himself in good company with a deep lineage of SEC coaches who’ve seen their innovative recruiting practices end in inane rules changes.

In 2007, the NCAA made a major move to eliminate all text messages from coaches to recruits. The “Meyer Rule” was implemented in response to reports from recruits that coaches like the University of Florida football coach Urban Meyer were disrupting students and their families through an incessant barrage of text messages.

In 2008, the NCAA passed a new rule, dubbed the “Saban Rule,” banning head coaches from making off-campus recruiting visits during the spring evaluation period. The rule was in response to Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s practice of bumping into players at off-campus community sites during the spring evaluation period. Saban, LSU head coach Les Miles, and Tennessee head coach Phil Fulmer all managed to maneuver around the new rule by utilizing daily video conferences to talk with recruits.

Both the Meyer rule and the Saban rule seem reasonable on the surface. The Meyer rule seemingly is in place to protect recruits and their families on a personal and financial level, while the Saban rule sets aside some privacy boundaries for coaches to adhere to. However, the “Chizik Rule” is the latest in a series of asinine moves by the NCAA aimed at punishing coaches for being creative and working within the framework of the rules.

Proponents of the new measure argue that the association of college football coaches with mass caravans of pimped out rides, sends a message that college football is big business. The NCAA must have just added a 35th bowl game and inked a $10.8 billion men’s basketball tournament TV deal for the sake of posterity then. One must recognize that college football has become a more than $2 billion-a-year business, thanks in part to extravagant TV deals and baseless bowl extensions, which the NCAA proudly promotes.

Do not be fooled-this new rule has nothing to do with the NCAA’s concern with crowded school hallways or meatloaf shortages in the lunchroom cafeteria. It’s about money and control.

For Chizik, Tiger Prowl was nothing more than a young coach’s attempt to revive interest in and promote awareness of a historic program in reconstruction, following several years of mediocrity. Kevin Scarbinsky coined it best in his Birmingham News article, "Good recruiters follow the rules. Great recruiters change them."

Chizik and his staff continue to be at the forefront of pushing the mold on traditional recruiting practices since taking the reigns in 2009. Just last year, the Auburn football program was tagged for minor secondary NCAA violations, following the enormous success of Big Cat Weekend; a casual weekend of social activities with coaches and players for top recruiting targets on Auburn’s campus.

For consummate recruiters like Meyer, Saban, and Chizik, the imposition of new rules and regulations won’t stop engagement in new schemes and tactics in pursuit of championships.

For now, it appears that Chizik has his program right where he wants it…in the mix.

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Justin Saia covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at thetigerbeatau@gmail.com.