Two rules have been changed since May of 2018 that will have a strong bearing on recruiting going forward. One pushed the unofficial visit time date to junior year while the other moved forward the official visit to the athlete’s junior year. The NCAA has claimed this rule change was meant to mimic the rest of the student bodies experience.
Unofficial Visits: September 1st of Junior Year.
The first and most damaging is that coaches are not allowed to have unofficial visits with athletes until September 1st of their junior year. Prior to this, coaches could meet sophomores on campus and discuss their program. This makes recruiting more challenging since competitive athletes have substantially less time to travel when they compete or train year round.
What is the best way to learn about a program before September 1 of your junior year?
Do your research. Follow their instagram and social media accounts and their team site. This is an easy way to learn about their program and understand their culture as a whole.
Take this time to understand the difference between DI,DII and DIII and the scope of the DI. DI is able to provide scholarships to athletes and they require a substantial amount of time in comparison to DII and DIII. However, within DI teams, they can range substantially as well. Any team in the Top 15 at NCAAs is going to require the majority of your time in college. If you are more interested in academics than rowing, check out the CRCA Scholar-Athlete Awards. Athletes must have a 3.5 or higher http://collegerowcoach.org/crca-announces-2018-scholar-athlete-awards/. A high number of athletes can tell you where the priority of the team may be in respect to academics and rowing.
With these new rule changes, the best time to visit a school for an unofficial visit that works with your schedule is the winter between Late January and Early March. Even if a team is on the ergs, it can tell you so much about the program, the staff and the culture of the team. It is important to see how a team handles an erg day because it speaks volumes about where the program wants to go. Not only that, it is a great way for you to see erg times and see where you may fit in.
Official Visits: September 1st of Junior Year.
Prior to this year, official visits were only allowed to occur after September 1 of a recruit’s senior year. This rule change predominately helps other sports who make verbal commitments with athletes at a much younger age. Rowers tend to establish themselves as talents at the end of their sophomore year and through their junior year. Because of this, most schools, I assume, will not significantly change their official visit style. The top 15 teams in the NCAA will most likely begin to use official visits for the Top 40 recruits. High schoolers who are already sub 7:25 for females may start getting official visit offers. Major state universities and some of the Ivys who tend to recruit foreign rowers will most likely use this time to get these students on campus. However, college teams are just as busy as you are doing your spring season so it is unlikely there will be many official visits occurring past the first weekend of April.
This means you have to learn more about these programs sooner and do your research about the school themselves. Don’t wait for the coach to answer all your questions.