Over the last few years, many NCAA Division 1 universities have begun offering athletic scholarships to progressively younger student-athletes. To its credit, the NCAA has begun considering rules that would prohibit the practice until a recruit’s junior year. This Article studies the problem of early recruiting and concludes that the NCAA’s proposed legislation will probably do little to change existing practice. While publicly-known informal scholarship offers may become scarce, clandestine understandings will probably rise, quite probably in ways that increase pressure on recruits while giving them even less certainty about the decisions they make. This will happen because the competitive nature of Division 1 NCAA sport creates strong incentives for institutions to skirt, evade, or even flout the relevant rules, especially when NCAA will have difficulty detecting violations of the rules. The Article then argues that the NCAA cannot truly reform early recruiting by merely prohibiting the extension of early informal offers. Instead, the NCAA should consider allowing early formal, binding commitments while regulating them in ways that make them less desirable for institutions. This can be done by forcing institutions that make early offers to guarantee those scholarships for additional years, depending on the youth of the recruit. Offers to juniors would be for a 2-year guaranteed scholarship, sophomores for 3, and freshmen for 4. Recruits who accept these offers would be bound under something like the present National Letter of Intent system. They would be of course making premature decisions about college, but they would get genuine certainty in return. This would, on the whole, be fairer than the existing system.
Alfred C. Yen. "Early Scholarship Offers and the NCAA." Boston College Law Review 52, no.2 (2011): 585-616.