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NCAA takes steps to curb early recruiting

NCHC Commissioner Josh Fenton delivers the State of the Conference during NCHC Media Day on Sept. 25 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Clint Austin / Forum News Service

FARGO --The NCAA Division I Council passed legislation Friday, April 19, to take a big bite out of early recruiting in college hockey.

Beginning May 1, coaches will be barred from having any communication with prospects until Jan. 1 of the prospect’s sophomore year. In the past, prospects were allowed to initiate contact at any time.

The legislation also bans unofficial visits until Jan. 1 of the prospect’s sophomore year and official visits -- which are paid by the school -- until Aug. 1 before the prospect’s junior year.

The other key part of the legislation is that schools can’t offer prospects scholarships or spots until Aug. 1 before the prospect’s junior year. That gives a seven-month window for prospects to communicate with schools, learn about them and get to know coaching staffs before offers are put in front of them.

Currently, some schools are forcing early decisions on players by offering them scholarships, but telling them that if they don’t commit within days, they’re losing the offer.

National Collegiate Hockey Conference commissioner Josh Fenton has spearheaded the process of trying to slow down recruiting for the past couple of years.

“The college hockey community recognized recruiting has accelerated to a point that isn’t healthy for prospects, our programs or the sport as a whole,” Fenton said. “Our underlying goal is to improve the recruiting landscape for prospects, families and coaches, and we believe these changes will make a significant impact.”

The timeline for women’s hockey recruiting is a little bit different. The first date of contact is June 15 after a prospect’s sophomore year.

The reason it is bumped up on the men’s side is because of college hockey’s competition with the three Canadian Hockey Leagues -- the Ontario Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Western Hockey League -- for prospects.

The OHL and QMJHL hold their drafts in the spring of a prospect’s sophomore year. The WHL does it a year earlier.

College hockey recruiters have been rushing to land young commitments before the legislation goes into effect. UND picked up commitments from three 2004-born prospects from Greater Grand Forks a couple of weeks ago -- Jaksen Panzer, Trey Ausmus and Cole Spicer.