It's looking like that college football recruiting is going to change pretty dramatically next spring.
The NCAA is on the verge of restructuring the spring recruiting period starting in 2020, with the new model including eight new regional combines conducted by the NCAA.
The last few several years spring football recruiting has consisted of the Evaluation Period, which runs from April 15th to the end of May, when coaches can go out to high school and JC campuses to see prospects in person; and a series of camps during the month of June. The camps consisted of those conducted by the school itself, but also satellite camps on other campuses in which coaches could attend.
If the NCAA follows through with a proposal it's considering, and that looks likely, the June satellite camp period is going away, however.
The new structure will feature eight regional combines from March 1st to May 31st. For eight weekends during that period, a combine will take place somewhere in the country that coaches can attend. They will be at NFL stadiums in different regions, and be invite-only (we aren't certain as to how the invite process would work at this time). This way coaches can theoretically go to all eight combines and see the best recruits from eight different regions of the country. We have been told that, initially, at least for the 2020 spring, the camps will include just seniors-to-be, but then expand in subsequent years to also include more combines for underclassmen. The data from the combines -- the testing results and such -- will be available to all college coaches, even those that don't attend.
It's uncertain as of this time if media will be allowed to attend the combines.
This will take the place of the June satellite camp season, which was problematic in many ways. First, many programs were manipulating the camps unfairly. For instance, a program would have coaches from other schools on campus for a camp, but then sneak in a "pop-up camp" a few days before in which the more elite prospects would participate. This would keep those elite prospects from the eyes of the coaches from other programs. This was happening while the host program would also use some coaches from other programs as guest instructors at the camp, thus also saving the expense of paying for camp coaches.
Sending coaches to many different camps all over the country in June is an expensive endeavor, one that many non-Power-Five programs were struggling to afford.
Also, June used to traditionally be a month when coaches snuck in a vacation and, in recent years, with June filled with camps, it's been more difficult to do that.
The programs will still be able to run their own institutional camps in June, according to what we've been told.
The new NCAA-run combines, though, will probably present some issues themselves. Running from March 1st to May 31st, that's about 13 weekends in which eight of those will be taken up by the combines. Most college programs conduct their spring practices during this time and often conduct practices on weekends. More than likely, programs will have to pack more practices into the weekdays to free up the weekends for its coaches to attend the NCAA combines. The Spring Evaluation Period, too, which runs from April 15th to the end of May, will have to be considered in scheduling. UCLA, as an example, waited until it had concluded its spring practices at the end of April before its coaches went out in May to see prospects at their high schools during the Spring Evaluation Period. And remember, spring practices are scheduled around the spring academic calendar. Having the NCAA combines from April through May throws another considerable wrench into what is already a fairly tightly-packed period from March through May.
The NCAA has been notorious for instituting different ideas and concepts into the recruiting process without seemingly much foresight into their impact. The new NCAA-run combines could very well be an improvement for college football recruiting in spring, or perhaps another shot in the dark by the NCAA.