Saturday Sports: Do SCIAC Rules Put CMS Sports at a Disadvantage?
“It’s tough when you make a call to one of your prospective athletes and his mom picks up and says ‘Can I have you him call you back, the head coach from Johns Hopkins is here.’” Mike Nahl, one of the main recruiters for Claremont-Mudd-Scripps football describes an everyday frustration felt by coaching staff’s throughout the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC). In the NCAA Division III rulebook, under SCIAC/NCAA rule differences, Rule 13 states that “contact and exchange of information between prospective Student-Athletes, parents, coaches, and any other affiliated parties is permissible only at the site of the PSA’s (prospective student athlete) contest.” “We’d love to take a trip up to the northwest or back east and meet with our recruits, but we’re just not allowed to,” says Nahl. The rule is designed to keep coaches on campus with their players.
This is one of the major recruiting regulations placed on the SCIAC that seriously hinders teams in the conference from recruiting at the same level as other teams across the nation. The focus then for teams in the conference is to get recruits to campus on a visit. “The best way for us to secure a recruit is to get them here on a campus visit,” says CMS Athletic Director Mike Sutton. “I can talk to recruit on the phone as much as I want, but rarely is a prospective athlete going to commit without coming on a visit beforehand.”
SCIAC specific recruiting regulations also complicate this process by restricting coaches from paying or even helping to pay for a recruit’s travel expenses. These regulations hurt SCIAC teams because a lot of recruits don’t have the means or funds available to travel to southern California for an official visit. This reinforces local recruiting and makes it the major focus within SCIAC athletics. “We try and work around the regulations,” says Sutton and “really focus on local recruiting remembering the general rule of thumb that college athletes want to go to school within less than a day’s drive of their home town.” For example looking at California Lutheran’s football roster, a team who has won back-to-back conference titles and is currently ranked #12 in the nation, there is a clear focus on in-state recruiting. This year only eight out of over one-hundred players are from out of the state.
The effect that these restrictions have on the national success of SCIAC teams is difficult to determine because there are so many other factors that play into how well our teams do in the playoffs. Location is a large factor that makes playoffs a more difficult road than for other teams across the country. In the past SCIAC teams have had trouble securing a home game in the playoffs and often have had to travel hundreds of miles for a first round game. Strength of schedule also brings about its own challenges for SCIAC teams.
Regardless, the reality is that SCIAC athletics have had little success on a national level. Looking at football, men’s and women’s soccer, baseball, and men’s basketball the SCIAC has been practically silenced by the rest of the nation. Division III men’s basketball, women’s soccer, and football have never seen a team from the SCIAC conference even compete in a national championship. Since a Division III national championship was implemented for baseball in 1976, only twice has a SCIAC team played from the championship. You have to go back to 1995 when the University of La Verne defeated Methodist or 96’ when Cal Lutheran lost 6-5 to William Patterson. The 1983 CMS men’s soccer team has been the only school from the SCIAC to compete in a Division III men’s soccer championship. The Stags ended up losing 3-2.
So what is the future for our conference? Lifting these restrictions from the SCIAC would be difficult to say the least. “There needs to be a compelling argument that proves that every team in the conference will benefit from the rule change,” says Sutton. Persuading a committee would be tricky because there are definitely rules that affect certain programs more than others. In this particular situation, most SCIAC programs are not affected by the restrictions that limit funding official visits because most teams don’t have enough funding to even pay for traveling expenses. However, for CMS and Pomona-Pitzer funding visits is an expense that could possibly become feasible based on the caliber of the recruit. At the same time, universities in the SCIAC with lower admission standards could possibly become even more dominant in local recruiting if contact restrictions with recruits were removed.
“These are all factors that we need to think about before making a decision like this,” says Sutton. For now, there seems to be no real desire brewing to have these restrictions lifted so in the mean time SCIAC athletics will have to focus on what has worked for them in the past and continue to do their best in securing recruits within the guidelines that currently stand.