By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
The holiday time frame between Thanksgiving and New Year’s might be considered an excellent place on the calendar for many to slow down and relax.
Not necessarily so for Mississippi junior college coaches.
With the new recruiting rules set forth by junior college presidents, new contacts must be made by all coaches, and more players are potentially being evaluated than any previous year.
“It’s making us work,” Northeast head football coach Ricky Smither said. “We’re not out covering the whole state, but just the closer districts.
“We have 115 names on our list right now. I think we have the work in our district wrapped up, now, we’re making sure we have visit dates wrapped up to get these guys all around the state in and on campus.”
In September, the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior College Presidents announced new recruiting within the state, and for non-Mississippi athletes.
There were two significant changes for all scholarship sports, beginning with the elimination of recruiting districts. For scholarship sports, recruiting districts and protected lists within those districts were eliminated, basically opening up the state so that any athlete could be recruited by any school.
Secondly, presidents voted to sharply reduce the number of out-of-state athletes that various sports could have on their rosters, and eliminate recruiting areas that border schools claimed that did not count against out-of-state numbers.
Then on Nov. 17, that change was modified, giving sports back their original out-of-state limits, though border schools did not recover their out-of-state recruiting areas. Football, for example, had been cut from eight out-of-state players to four, but the Nov. 17 modification put the number back to eight.
“I think the integrity of the league will be maintained because of that,” Smither said. “When you mix Mississippi and out-of-state athletes together, you get a pretty good league.”
The signing date for senior and junior college football players is the first Wednesday in February, which is Feb. 1 in 2012.
While football initiated the majority of feedback because of the new recruiting landscape, coaches in sports like basketball and baseball are certainly operating differently now with a wide-open state.
“Right now I like it,” Itawamba head baseball coach Rick Collier said. “I know some players who didn’t get a chance because of protected lists.
“I think I’ve probably called every coach in the state since the change. With more players available to fill in holes on a roster, if a team in Mississippi can hit, I think they now have a chance to win a national championship.”
The early signing date for baseball is Jan. 15.
Basketball might be at the end of the line in being able to see the impact, just because of how its season falls on the calendar.
“I’m kind of excited about the new rules in the state,” said Itawamba women’s head coach Nanci Gray, who indicates that many signees will wait until they are passed on by four-year schools before getting serious about two-year schools. “We’ll be out and about catching some of the Christmas tournaments, but you could certainly work yourself to death trying to cover the whole state.”