A Short List of Do's and Don't's
by Neal Williams
TSL Extra, Issue #4

Monday night, less than a week after national signing date.

Bryan Stinespring, Virginia Tech’s assistant head football coach, is at home.

Surely, with a well-regarded recruiting class in the bag, Stinespring is relaxing with his wife and three children. This has to be a recruiting down time, right?

Not hardly.

"I was busy compiling my list of juniors and dropping a line to each one of them that I feel, in my area, is going to be recruited," Stinespring said. "I was hand-writing them a letter. I keep them updated as if they’re already a part of my program.

"The purpose of this letter was to go over this past recruiting class and what it means and that we’re already setting our sights on the top student-athletes in our state next year."

Stinespring was breaking no rules by writing high school juniors. If anyone should know, it is Stinespring.

He’s a man of many hats at Tech. In addition to his new position as assistant head coach, he coaches the Hokies’ offensive linemen.

He’s also the team’s recruiting coordinator, which means a lot of things.

"One is trying to help our program and our staff improve our relations with the high school coaches, particularly here in the state of Virginia," Stinespring said. "One of the things we’ve incorporated in the last two years is kind of a traveling clinic. We have our own here on campus and we’ll also travel to 2-3 areas and put on a one-night, all-inclusive clinic."

Another of his duties – not that he’s alone here – is to make sure he understands every aspect of the NCAA rulebook with regard to recruiting.

Each year, a coach has to take and pass an exam on those rules, which change every year.

The rulebook keeps getting thicker. Stinespring said it would probably be much easier "to do a synopsis on War and Peace" than to break down the rulebook in simple terms.

Nonetheless, he gave it a shot. Here are a few areas and guidelines coaches have to deal with when it comes to recruiting. By no means is this all-inclusive.

* Say hey! Coaches have limits on when and how much they can talk to recruits. There are dead periods, when nothing can happen. There are evaluation periods, when they can observe and evaluate but not talk and there are regular recruiting periods where contact is permissible.

Before a student becomes a junior, there are limits to what he can get in the mail. They can get a form letter or a questionnaire.

Once a student begins his junior year, he can receive unlimited mail. And that includes email. Recruiting has gone into the technological age.

"The Internet has changed things quite a bit," Stinespring said. "Now our forms include email addresses as well as the basics. It is just another way to contact them."

Beginning in May, coaches may contact recruits once a month by phone. Starting Sept. 1 of the athletes’ senior year, that increases to once a week.

May is also the next evaluation time. A coach can go to the school and meet with the football coach. He can watch film, look at a transcript. He can watch a track meet or other athletic event.

"We are able to evaluate an individual but not able to talk face-to-face," Stinespring said. "That is a contact."

During the contact period, which starts in December and goes through early February, the coach can visit a prospect away from school once a week.

A head coach, however, is allowed one visit to the home and school provided it occurs on the same day.

* You wear what size? This is a no-no. You can send a prospect media guides (also called recruiting guides at many schools) and information about the school in general. They can get information about the field of study in which they have an interest. But don’t even think about sending a hat, t-shirt or highlight film. No how, no way.

* "We love Speedy Strongman because … " One of the many misunderstood rules about recruiting involves what a college coach is allowed to say to the media about a prospect.

Most won’t say anything to be safe.

The rules allow for comments about a prospect’s general traits but not about what the prospect can do for a specific school.

For instance, "Speedy is speedy and he’s also strong," is allowable. "Speedy because of his ability would step in here and play a lot right away," is not. But that leads to very gray areas such as, "Speedy would do well in a program that runs between the tackles a lot and just lost its top two backs." Hmmm. What program might that be? Yours, coach?

To avoid any questions, very few coaches will comment publicly on a prospect until his signed paperwork is in the school’s football office. "Don’t talk about what’s not officially yours" is a rule of thumb.

* Come see us. A prospect can make five official recruiting trips. A school is also limited in how many prospects it can have visit. Stinespring admits he’s not sure on the total since the Hokies never come close to the maximum. He thinks it is 60.

On an official visit, the school can cover the cost of travel and the expense of food and lodging for 48 hours.

Prospects can also visit on their own, as many times as they’d like. This happens frequently when a school isn’t very far from the prospect's home. The prospect must pay for the entire trip, although the school is allowed to provide complimentary game tickets for the prospect and three guests, Stinespring said.

Once on campus, even on an unofficial visit, a prospect can be treated like one making an official visit.

"I can show you a highlight film, I can sit down and visit with you, we can draw plays on the board, you can sit down and visit with Coach Beamer," Stinespring said.

There’s plenty more, but a lot of the rules are common sense. Don’t give stuff away, don’t let your boosters get involved with recruiting, etc.

The rules, Stinespring said, are there to try and keep the field level for everyone.

Tech doesn’t recruit the entire nation. It hits Virginia very heavily and ventures into surrounding states and the mid-Atlantic region. It also works talent-rich Florida very hard. It does get prospects from other areas, but Stinespring said there’s usually some sort of tie-in (family background at Tech, assistant coach knows high school coach from way back, that sort of thing).

Ideally, the Hokies will work with an original list that includes about four times as many prospects as there are available scholarships.

"Being able to win the battle of the state is critical for us," Stinespring said. "Any success we’ve had in the past or are going to have in the future is paved through the state of Virginia."

Even with all the rules to memorize and the work to do, Stinespring enjoys his recruiting responsibilities.

"I get excited every year about recruiting," he said. "I enjoy it immensely. It is a wonderful opportunity to meet and get to know different young men and their families."


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