Jucos benefit from change in recruiting regulations

Take a quick scan at the harsh penalties doled out in the past to the UNLV men’s basketball team or Southern Methodist University’s football team and it is evident that the recruiting processes of big-time

Division I sports programs are carefully monitored by college athletics’ powerful governing body, the NCAA.

The scene is decidedly different for California junior college sports, where programs are judged based more on the simple honesty of school officials than through any sort of far-reaching investigative probes.

The regulatory organization of the 72 California junior college football programs is the Commission on Athletics, a small, nonprofit group comprised of five full-time staff members — a far cry from the 350 paid professionals and large budget the NCAA has at its disposal at its headquarters in Indianapolis.

“When it comes to recruiting, the COA is pretty much forced to rely on the integrity of the schools,” said College of San Mateo coach Larry Owens, who has been leading the Bulldogs since 1990. “They just don’t have the resources to come down and investigate or anything to see if a school is committing any sort of infractions.”

The recruiting guidelines imposed by the COA are fairly simple. They have set up a first-contact rule, which states that any athlete outside a school’s sanctioned districts must be the first to establish contact with a coaching staff before he can continue to be recruited. The ruling essentially means that, unlike Division I coaches with free rein over the country, California JC coaches can’t go roaming around the state seeking out talent.

Until 2000, coaches were allowed to make first contact and recruit only within their own community college district, a specific region near the school that makes up each institution’s student body. After 2000, the COA established the contiguous district act, a ruling that stipulated coaches could recruit within any community college district that touched their own district’s geographic boundaries.

“You still have to take care of your own backyard,” Owens said. “But the contiguous recruiting really opened things up for a lot of schools. It’s definitely changed the way we’ve been forced to recruit.”

For CCSF and its coach of 31 years, George Rush, the contiguous recruiting act has greatly expanded the Rams’ base of operations. Instead of just mining the San Francisco region, Rush and his staff can now recruit in the districts of CSM, Peralta Community College, Contra Costa College and College of Marin. CSM, meanwhile, can pluck prospects from six other districts.

Even with the recruiting expansions, Rush and Owens concede that the rules mean little without the fear of punishment by the COA.

“You look at some of these rosters full of out-of-state guys at some college no one has ever heard about and you wonder a little,” Rush said. “Everyone has a pretty good idea about who is ignoring the first-contact rules.”

Representatives from the COA admit that the issue of first-contact enforcement is a problem they can do little to solve.

“For a real long time, this was a one or two-person shop,” said Dave Eadie, the director of communications at the COA, which has been the governing body of California JCs in some form or another for the past 108 years. “Now, we do have a board of directors and a management council, but we’re still almost completely reliant on the schools to be honest in their recruiting practices.”

Proving ground

Junior colleges such as CCSF and CSM offer a path to better opportunities for football players.

» MONDAY: The history behind CCSF and CSM

» TUESDAY: Junior college provides second chances

» WEDNESDAY: Plethora of teams means state stands alone

» TODAY: How do the big boys use jucos?

» FRIDAY: Making it all the way to the NFL

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