High school coaches decry new rules proposal

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Detroit — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, speaking at the Horatio Williams Center in downtown Detroit Wednesday evening at the Michigan Football Clinic, made it a point to show he had strong interest in keeping the line of communication open with Detroit Public School League coaches.

And for good reason, since Harbaugh brought in the top two players from the PSL in Cass Tech receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones and King defensive back Ambry Thomas.

And, Harbaugh knows that line of communication could be harder to keep open with a new rule proposed week by the NCAA.

The NCAA board of governors will be voting on the newly proposed NCAA bylaw titled “Individual Associated with a Recruited Prospective-Athlete” next week.

The rule states that “In football, an institution or staff member shall not employ (either on a volunteer or paid basis) an individual associated with a recruited prospective student-athlete at the institution’s camp or clinic (including a coaches clinic or a camp or clinic involving non-prospects), unless at least two years (24 months) have elapsed since the prospective student-athlete’s initial full-time enrollment at the institution.”

If the rule passes as expected, many and possibly most high school coaches will be banned from working Division I college football camps, therefore punishing them from the opportunity to make extra money like in past years.

The new rule will certainly apply to Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher, who consistently has four-star players on his roster. Wilcher worked four camps — Ohio State, Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Sound Mind Sound Body — last summer.

“The most important thing about the new rule is we have to keep relationships, we have to keep clinics like this going on where college coaches feel comfortable coming down here to talk to all the young men, talking to all the young coaches, talk to all the high school coaches because I think it’s important so when we start talking about cutting the communication down, cutting down the contact, cutting down the things that college coaches and high school coaches are able to do, that’s bad,” Wilcher said.

“When college coaches get ready to run their camps, they depend upon the high school coaches to help run camps. I mean when you get a thousand kids, where are you going to get the help from? You reach out to us, and then the second thing is a lot of high school coaches depend upon that as a summer salary because summer’s out. We go from camp to camp to camp working and building relationships, trying to keep our dream alive, our hope alive on one day being a college coach so we miss out on all of that.

“What this means now is high school coaches have to go one route or the other so I’m going to go college or I’m going to go high school? If I go high school I might not get to college because it’s a four year rule and if I have a good kid there he can’t go to school or I can’t get a job there so it’s very bad.”

Wilcher’s former coordinator Jermain Crowell is now head coach at Belleville. Crowell, like Wilcher, worked multiple camps during past summers, including Alabama, which has offered Belleville sophomore Devontae Dobbs — the nation’s top offensive lineman for the class of 2019 — as has Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State and more than 20 other schools.

“Basically, high school coaches are not allowed to work camps and be paid now with this new rule, kind of like a recruiting violation,” Crowell said. “It’s kind of like when they added that 10th coach, if the coach came from the high school level you couldn’t get a player from that school for two years. I think this new rule is the Jim Harbaugh Rule, that’s exactly what it is.”

Harbaugh hired Paramus Catholic (N.J.) head coach Chris Partridge to his staff in January 2015, then brought in five-star defensive tackle Rashan Gary from Partridge’s former school in 2016 and four-star linebacker Drew Singleton in ’17.

Harbaugh brought in Devin Bush Sr., a high school coach, as an analyst after signing his son, four-star safety Devin Bush in 2016.

And, he hired Michael Johnson, head coach at The King’s Academy in Sunnyvale, California, this winter. Johnson coached his son, Michael Johnson who is the top-rated dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2019. However, Johnson ended up declining the Michigan offer to take an assistant job at Oregon.

Spencer knows he has little hope for a Division I assistant job with elite players on his roster.

“We have a guy that comes out in two years named Marvin Grant (6-foot-2, 200-pound sophomore ranked nationally as the sixth-best safety) who is already ranked in the top 100 for 2019, so let’s say if Michigan hired me as some type of position (coach) and then we go and get Marvin the next year when he comes out, the NCAA is making that illegal. Now, if you get the coach, you can’t touch his players.”

High school coaches will now pay the price for being banned from working camps, along with the possibility of career advancement. River Rouge coach Corey Parker feels that’s wrong.

“It’s really going to definitely change the way high school coaches go about doing their daily work with trying to develop relationships with college coaches so it’s really tough,” Parker said. “There’s a lot of situations all around the country where this is happening (high school coaches and players headed to same college) so really what it comes down to is the University of Michigan has done a good job for the most part of finding ways to identify some good players, but it’s not as if these coaches are bad coaches.

“These coaches are good coaches and obviously they develop and win with these players. They have the ability to coach and develop players and now they’re being penalized, and the guys that are going to be hurt now are guys like Coach Wilcher, maybe a guy like Coach Crowell at Belleville, maybe even a guy like me, and we might not have an opportunity to coach college ball because of this rule.”

The NCAA has also put in place a second national signing day period in December, along with the traditional early February signing day.

“I think it’s good for those kids who want to lock up their commitment status and sign early and then it allows those colleges to not let those big schools take their kids,” Spencer said. “You won’t see like a Toledo or Cincinnati kid being picked up by Michigan anymore because that Cincinnati kid will probably sign earlier. They will also allow you to do official visits your junior year now from April to June so you have that spring period and a little bit of summer to take official visits so you can sign early if you want to, which is cool.”