October 21, 2014

Elyria
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Rule puts recruiting on recall

There’s a new deal in high school recruiting that will dramatically affect the way private schools, especially Catholic schools, recruit athletes. Actually, it affects the way all students are recruited, public and private.
Earlier this year the Ohio High School Athletic Association adopted a rule stipulating that all recruiting must be done on school grounds, not at CYO or Muny League football games, foreign gyms, AAU track meets, wrestling tournaments, etc.
Furthermore, the new rule prohibits phone calls and text messaging to potential students.
“The intent is to get the coaches out of the recruiting business,” said St. Edward principal Eugene Boyer.
Not only coaches. The rule outlaws “use of influence by anyone connected or not connected to the school,” Boyer said, quoting from the directive.
“This means,” Boyer said, “alumni, boosters, even anybody who ever made a donation to the school.”
Because it is impossible to isolate future athletes, the new recruiting rule applies to all students entering high school.
“Recruiting has been a somewhat gray area for a while,” said Elyria Catholic athletic director Barb Salata.
Salata says the new rules will not affect Elyria Catholic.
“Our coaches have never been in the recruiting business,” said Salata. “We’ve never had coaches manning phones. We direct all prospective students to our admissions director. We have a lot of summer clinics where kids can meet the coaches. These camps are our best selling points and all within legal limits. There’s the letter of the law and the spirit of the law and we’ve done well following the spirit of the law.”
Salata acknowledges, however, that Elyria Catholic is in a comparatively comfortable situation.
“We’re the only Catholic high school in Lorain County,” she points out.
The stories are vastly different, however, at St. Edward and St. Ignatius, the two giant powers who compete every day of the week for students. They go head to head for the same boys. Their attitude is, when your tuition is $10,000, you can’t simply open the front door and expect parents to queue up with their checkbooks in hand. Coaches recruit relentlessly. Every alumnus is a salesman. These schools spread their messages to every willing ear in northeastern Ohio.
Their football coaches, prominently wearing school jackets, could be seen at CYO and Muny League games every Sunday afternoon, pitching parents, meeting kids and spreading the gospel.
On Sunday evenings the coaches would get together at banks of phones in their athletic departments and call the eighth-graders on their lists. At work on Mondays the fathers liked to boast that the St. Ignatius coach or the St. Edward coach called their kid. It evolved into a status symbol. Coaches hated the drill, but it was an essential part of the game.
No longer. You can’t sit next to an eighth-grade kid at an Indians’ game — a kid you don’t even know — and pitch him on your school’s Academic Challenge team or high math rating. That’s a violation. Anyone listening to your chit-chat could report you to the OHSAA.
“This caught us by surprise,” Boyer acknowledged.
Shortly before retiring this spring, OHSAA assistant commissioner Duane Warns met with all Catholic high school principals to go over the new rules.
Earlier this week the principals of St. Edward and St. Ignatius met for lunch and pledged that they would set an example.
“Instead of trying to circumvent the rules, I want to be the standard bearer,” said Boyer.
It’s a good policy, it’s the only policy, because everyone will be watching them.
Coaches may still attend grade school football games and other events, but they may not initiate contact with a prospect or his parent or guardian. When approached, coaches may hand out their business cards and suggest an appointment at the school. Exactly where good manners and friendliness cross the line is smack in the middle of a gray area.
Shortly before retiring this spring, OHSAA assistant commissioner Duane Warns met with all the Catholic high school principals to explain the new rules. Many schools have distributed instruction sheets or pamphlets to their coaches.
Many public school coaches, however, do not realize the new rules apply to them, as well. It is no secret that proselytizing runs rampant at some public schools. Coaches Ted Ginn at Glenville and Jeff Rotsky at Cleveland Heights will be under the microscope.
Needless to say, enforcement is difficult. The OHSAA can respond to accusations and complaints made by other schools and not much else. The OHSAA is not a detective agency.
But one public school coach from Cuyahoga County is already under investigation for trying to recruit a kid from a neighboring school district.
The slogan for the 2007 season is, “Read ’em their rights.”
Contact Dan Coughlin at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.