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Recruiting 101: The calendar

MORE: Texting overload is No. 1 complaint among recruits

Recruiting is known as the “lifeblood” of a college football program, but the complexity of the process can be confusing for prospects and college football fans alike. In our Recruiting 101 series we will look to clarify some basic topics, and explain more advanced topics, about college football recruiting, and answer those questions you have been afraid to ask. This week’s topic is about the recruiting calendar.

The recruiting calendar is the clock that gives cadence to the entire recruiting process, and it has undergone significant changes in the last few years. We start with the core aspects of the calendar and work our way into some of the more recent changes. In this article we will be dealing exclusively with rules governing the Football Bowl Subdivision, previously known as Division I-A.

CONTACT PERIODS AND DEAD PERIODS

There are several periods that govern the interaction that is permissible between prospective student-athletes (PSAs) and designated college representatives – usually assistant or head coaches – during the course of the year. Contact can be in-person or via multiple types of electronic communication, including phone calls, FaceTime and text messages.

The least restrictive period on the recruiting calendar is the Contact Period. During a Contact Period college coaches can meet with PSAs or their parents face-to-face off-campus, they can visit their high schools and can watch PSAs compete and/or work out. The Contact Period opens the Sunday after the college football regular season ends and lasts until the Sunday prior to the December Signing Period opening, which was Dec. 19 for the 2019 class. It then re-opens in early to mid-January and lasts until the Sunday prior to the February Signing Period opening. During the December/January Contact Period institutions are allowed only one off-campus contact with each recruit per week (Sunday through Saturday).

The next least restrictive period on the recruiting calendar is the Evaluation Period. During an Evaluation Period coaches may visit a PSA’s school and watch them compete, but may not have off-campus face-to-face contact with the PSA or their parents outside of a basic greeting. The two Evaluation Periods happen from April 15-May 31, and September 1-the last weekend in November. An individual college representative may not visit a PSA’s school more than once in each period.

A Quiet Period is similar to an Evaluation Period from a contact standpoint, except that college coaches are not allowed to watch PSAs compete or work out. There is a Quiet Period that starts in early February following the Winter Contact Period, and lasts until April 14. Another Quiet Period takes place throughout most of the month of June and for one week in late July. In both Evaluation Periods and Quiet Periods, on-campus contact between coaches and PSAs is permissible.

The most restrictive period on the recruiting calendar is the Dead Period. During this time no on-campus or off-campus face-to-face contact can be made with PSAs or their parents. One Dead Period takes place during much of July and August, while another Dead Period takes place in a three-week period between the start of the December Signing Period and the second weekend in January. Dead Periods are the only time on the calendar prospects cannot make campus visits to colleges.

The question about whether coach-initiated phone calls are permissible during a dead period is a common one, and the answer is that they are not permissible during the summer Dead Period. However, the one phone call per week from a coach to a PSA remains permissible during the winter Dead Period.

Written mail and direct messages via social media sites such as Twitter are essentially permissible starting Sept. 1 of a PSA’s junior year of high school, without much restriction. Essentially, coaches can contact recruits via private social media direct messaging or via traditional mail at any time and as often as they like after Sept. 1 of their junior year and until they sign a National Letter of Intent.

We could go down a wormhole on what is OK and not OK with social media, but it essentially breaks down to private contact is allowed while public contact, such as a coach replying to a recruit’s public tweet with “can’t wait to see you on campus next month,” is not. Liking or retweeting a prospect’s social media post is allowed.

OFFICIAL AND UNOFFICIAL VISITS

We will get into more detail on official visits and unofficial visits in a future article, but as it relates to the recruiting calendar the time period for when official visits are allowed is one of the new changes.

Prior to the 2019 class, official visits could not take place prior to the start of a PSA’s senior year of high school. However, starting with the 2019 class, official visits are also now permissible starting April 1 of a PSA’s junior year through the Sunday before the last Wednesday in June.

The traditional start for official visits was the beginning of a PSA’s senior year of high school, and that remains in place. If that start is in August and a college program has a regular season home game scheduled in August, then an official visit can take place in August even though August is technically a Dead Period. An August official visit must start no sooner than 48 hours before the beginning of the college’s home contest and end no later than 48 hours after the conclusion of that contest.

Otherwise, official visits may take place at any time in September, October, November, December, January, February and even March of a PSA’s senior year as long as it is not during a Dead Period and that individual has yet to sign a National Letter of Intent.

Unofficial visits by a PSA to a college campus can happen any time outside of dead periods. One exception to that summer dead period is a week in late July that is opened up as a Quiet Period. This is when many programs host summer recruiting events, such as Penn State’s Lasch Bash or Oklahoma’s ChampU BBQ.

In 2018 there was some confusion among a few college staffs about this week-long Quiet Period in late July and whether official visits would be allowed. Because it is a Quiet Period, PSAs may unofficially visit college campuses, but it is not a permissible official visit time.

SIGNING PERIODS

The other major change that occurred recently to the recruiting calendar involves the addition of a second signing period. The traditional signing period in college football starts on the first Wednesday in February of a PSA’s senior year, and continues through the end of March. A common false assumption is that prospects have to sign their letters of intent on that first Wednesday in February, but in the past five-stars such as Terrelle Pryor and Malik McDowell have waited until March to sign their letters of intent.

A second signing period, commonly referred to as the “Early Signing Period,” or the “December Signing Period,” was added with the 2018 class. The Early Signing Period opens on the third Wednesday in December of a PSA’s senior year, and stays open for three days. It has become the primary signing period with 85 percent of four- and five-star prospects in the 2019 class choosing to sign during the Early Signing Period.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

In future editions of this series we will directly answer specific questions from college football fans about the recruiting process. If you have a question you would like answered, submit it to @JoshHelmholdt via Twitter.