The American Hockey Coaches Association meetings took place last week in Naples, Fla., and the topic of college hockey's "gentlemen's agreement" was once again a hot-button issue.
The agreement has been in place for a number of years, with college hockey coaches making a pact to not recruit players once they have committed to a school. The agreement was never a rule set in stone, as the NCAA allows recruiting up until a prospect signs a national letter of intent as a senior in high school.
According to a recent report from College Hockey News, the coaches at the meetings in Florida voted by a 3-1 margin to uphold the current agreement. After the vote, however, sources told CHN, "Minnesota and 'a number of big schools' suggested they may not adhere to the Gentlemen's Agreement anymore, and only abide by the NCAA's Letter of Intent."
It appears Wisconsin will be one of those schools. According to a report from the Wisconsin State Journal, the Badgers will now recruit until a player signs his NCAA letter of intent:
Eaves said he and his staff will keep a list of certain recruits they coveted, but lost. The coaches will place a call to those players once a year until a National Letter of Intent is signed to see if there is any wavering.
"We'd say, ‘Are you still true to your word?' " Eaves said. "If the young man says yes, then that's it. We're done."
Many believe there are schools who have been abusing the agreement to stockpile recruits. There has been speculation in recent years that Ivy League schools -- who don't use the NCAA's letters of intent -- stockpile more recruits than they have room for, and then tell kids they didn't meet admissions standards when it comes time to come to campus.
Others, like myself, believe doing away with the agreement will help stem the tide of verbal commitments at young ages. I wrote about that fact last year, and my opinion has not wavered. If NCAA schools know they can recruit a player until the LOI is signed, rushing to earn a verbal commitment from players at 14- and 15 years-old will no longer be the top priority.
While there will still be schools offering and earning commitments from young players, I truly believe this will help slow the process. In turn, that will also help eliminate recruiting mistakes on players who are committing to schools 3-to-4 years in advance of arriving on campus.
Minnesota's Don Lucia has been outspoken about why he feels the agreement needs to go by the wayside. Lucia told the Grand Forks Herald last fall he's frustrated by the number of early commitments.
"I find it frustrating that we want to recruit a kid, but we haven't had a chance to get him to campus," Lucia said. "Suddenly, someone puts a gun to his head to make a decision, which happens. I don't think that's fair either.
"Or else, maybe a kid wants to come here, but we're full, so he commits somewhere else. All of the sudden, we have a couple of kids sign (pro deals) and spots open up. Why shouldn't I be able to give that kid a scholarship that we didn't have a month earlier?"
With schools like Wisconsin, Minnesota and Boston College admitting they are no longer going to abide by the current agreement, it's only a matter of time before everyone else follows. It's hard to believe schools -- even if they voted to uphold the agreement -- would not entertain their potential options if the schools they are competing against have the ability to recruit committed players.
UPDATE: Coaches from Notre Dame, Miami, Bowling Green and Quinnipiac tweeted on Friday they will honor verbal agreements and will not recruit committed players.
In the end, Lucia put it best, "The bottom line is that you work for your institution, not somebody else's institution. You don't want to be picking off a kid weeks before signing day, but there are other situations."
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