New NCAA rules could change recruitment of underclassmen in most sports

April 24, 2018 GMT

All of those premature college commitments by local underclassmen baseball and softball players might just be a passing occurrence.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the NCAA has approved new recruiting rules that are “expected to eliminate early scholarship offers to high school freshmen and sophomores for all sports but football and basketball.”

The revised legislation is supposed to take effect next school year.

The NCAA rules “aim to make college athlete recruiting experience similar to student body’s.”

A talented group of underclass baseball and softball players is making its way through the WPIAL ranks, verbal commitments in tow. A number of them are from Westmoreland County.

A skilled sophomore group includes Hempfield’s Tyler Weiderstein, who has committed to Michigan; Franklin Regional’s Bryce Harper (Virginia Tech); Brandon Gelpi of Central Catholic (Pitt); Mark Black of Serra Catholic (St. John’s); and Austin Hendricks of West Allegheny (Mississippi State).

An on-the-rise freshmen class includes Norwin pitcher Jayden Walker, a fast-rising, 6-foot-3 left-hander who is expected to draw D-I attention.

Mt. Pleasant softball has two freshmen D-I commits: Haylie Brunson (Louisiana-Lafayette) and Courtney Poulich (Liberty), while Hempfield freshman catcher Emma Hoffner verbally committed to St. Francis (Pa.).

Albert Gallatin sophomore Annalia Paoli committed to Pitt last year, while Belle Vernon star pitcher Bailey Parshall committed to Penn State as a sophomore, and Penn-Trafford catcher Josh Spiegel gave Oklahoma State the nod just before his junior year.

The new guidelines reportedly will prevent student-athletes from taking official college visits until Sept. 1 of their junior year. For football, that will be April 1 of their 11th grade year; basketball, Jan. 1.

Unofficial visits could be curtailed drastically. Coaches no longer will be permitted to give freshmen and sophomores tours of their college campuses. They, too, will not be allowed to take part in recruits’ unofficial visits until Sept. 1 of the prospect’s junior year.

Unofficial visits will still be possible in football and basketball.

“The idea in the rule changes is to give high school athletes more time to decide their college choice,” the Times wrote. “How this will change the reliance on many college coaches making offers to young recruits remains to be seen. Will they use the high school or club coach to pass along messages or offers? Will college camps become even more important because freshmen and sophomores can attend the camps?”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.