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What NCAA sanctions mean for Mississippi State football recruiting

Last updated: 08-30-2019

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What NCAA sanctions mean for Mississippi State football recruiting

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STARKVILLE – Joe Moorhead has been tabbed as a good recruiter by fellow coaches and media members alike since he became head coach at Mississippi State at the end of 2017. 

But Moorhead's task just got tougher. 

The NCAA sanctions imposed on Mississippi State's football program as a result of academic violations committed by 10 players included many recruiting-related restrictions.

The Clarion Ledger gleaned information from Rivals recruiting analyst Woody Wommack to determine how much each recruiting-based sanction will affect Moorhead and his staff moving forward.

Here's what Wommack had to say about each specific sanction. 

Wommack said a reduction in scholarships would have hurt Mississippi State more had those reductions come during this academic year. Instead, they don't come until the 2020-21 academic year. 

Mississippi State already has 23 commits in its 2020 class. It only has two commits in its 2021 class. Moorhead and company can devise a plan and prepare for the future while keeping the same plan they had for this upcoming season. 

However, Wommack did say that it will hurt Mississippi State's odds in the transfer portal once the reductions kick in. State landed two key graduate transfers from the portal this offseason, one of which was Tommy Stevens, recently named the starting quarterback this week. Losing two scholarships per year diminishes Moorhead's ability to make the most of the transfer market the way he did in recent months. 

Most of Mississippi State's recruits hail from the Magnolia State, and the loss of official visits is a little easier to handle, Wommack said. 

Still, it's not inconsequential.

Wommack called official visits "closing time." When a university covers all the costs to bring a high school student and his family to campus for 48 hours, coaches don't want to take risks by spending that money on recruits who are long shots to commit to the program. 

For example, Kelly Bryant took an official visit to Mississippi State in the spring. The Bulldogs' staff did not hesitate on bringing the now-Missouri quarterback to Starkville even though he was not expected to sign with Mississippi State. 

Now with 36 official visits, State may stay away from taking those kind of changes . 

"When you're trying to find 25 guys, there's not a lot of room for error," Wommack said. "That's where it hurts. When it comes down from 40 to 36, you've got to hit on a lot of those guys." 

Being prohibited from hosting unofficial visits for one game in each of the next three seasons might be the biggest hit of all.

Wommack said he was "surprised" to see this sanction on the list. He said he's not sure if he's ever seen this "unusual" penalty before. 

During an unofficial visit, Wommack estimates between 25 to 50 recruits at Davis Wade Stadium depending on who the Bulldogs are playing. 

"Even when they're playing Louisiana or someone like that, you're still having a ton of kids coming," Wommack said. "Losing one a year, losing a significant percentage of your opportunities to show kids what your game day experience is all about."  

Wommack said the game day experience at Mississippi State is a "big-time sell." Not being able to sell it to recruits is an invaluable loss. 

"You get the kids on campus and the cowbells are going," Wommack said. "The crowd is loud. It's hard to replicate that any other time of the year, especially in the winter when guys are going to basketball games or something. It's not the same." 

And if they can't go to Starkville, they'll go elsewhere. 

"They're going to be at Ole Miss," Wommack said. "Or they're going to be going up to Tennessee or Arkansas or Vanderbilt or something like that. One thing is for sure; they won't be at Mississippi State." 

This is what is allowed during evaluation days, according to the NCAA: "A college coach may watch college-bound student-athletes compete, visit their high schools and write or telephone student-athletes or their parents. However, a college coach may not have face-to-face contact with college-bound student-athletes or their parents off the college’s campus during an evaluation period."

Two of the major recruiting periods during the year are high school football season and the weeks between the end of the college football season and the start of spring practices.

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Mississippi State got slapped with sanctions that make recruiting harder during both time frames. 

Losing two evaluation days during the fall likely means not being able to attend two high school games that the MSU coaching staff would have went to had the penalties not been imposed. 

Losing 10 evaluation days during the spring means losing the ability to keep contact with recruits and their parents over the phone during a time in which there is not much going on at the college campus. 

Contact Tyler Horka at thorka@gannett.com. Follow @tbhorka on Twitter. To read more of Tyler's work, subscribe to the Clarion Ledger today!


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