Expanded ‘dead period’ puts rush on recruiting

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- John Curtis wide receiver Malachi Dupre
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- John Curtis wide receiver Malachi Dupre

Try to keep up.

Malachi Dupre’s journey began with an official visit to LSU on Jan. 17.

Two days later, the highly recruited John Curtis receiver drove to Tuscaloosa, Ala., and visited Alabama.

That weekend, he flew to Tallahassee, Fla., to check out Florida State.

From there, he took a flight to Memphis, Tenn., then drove down to Oxford, Miss., to see Ole Miss.

And this past weekend, the last before Wednesday’s National Signing Day, he took a five-hour flight to Los Angeles to visit UCLA.

That’s six states and five schools in two weeks.

Why the mad rush? It’s one effect of the NCAA’s new monthlong “dead period,” which spans from mid-December to mid-January.

“The schedule has been so jammed,” John Curtis coach J.T. Curtis said. “It wears on the families, physically and emotionally.”

Dupre’s case is a negative byproduct of the new policy, which was approved in October.

During a dead period, face-to-face interaction between prospects and coaches is prohibited. Official campus visits from prospects are banned. In-home visits from coaches aren’t allowed.

The policy extended an original dead period from 16 days to nearly twice that number.

The old dead period mainly spanned Christmas and New Year’s. The new one — running from Dec. 16 to Jan. 15 — covered one more week in both January and December.

So that’s two lost official visit weekends, and about 14 days lost for coaches to visit homes.

So how will this affect recruiting in the long term?

It certainly clogs up January. Prospects are jamming official visits into the three-week period after the dead period ends and Signing Day arrives.

It’s tougher for prospects like Dupre. John Curtis’ season didn’t end until Dec. 12 in the state championship game, and J.T. Curtis doesn’t let his players visit colleges during the season.

Dupre was forced, in these waning weeks, to take mid-week visits to Alabama and Ole Miss.

He’s not alone. Midweek visits, a rarity before the season, had a massive surge this year, said Sonny Shipp, recruiting analyst for 24/7 Sports’ Geaux247 site.

“I’m anxious to see if the NCAA is able to get it right and go back and figure out this is not something that’s going to work,” he said. “They think they’re helping the students, but now you see more kids than ever taking midweek visits. He’s missing two to three days of school. How does that help a student-athlete?”

Already a buzzing month in the recruiting season, January just got busier, said Barton Simmons, 24/7 Sports’ national college football recruiting reporter.

“To me, the biggest impact is intensifying the last couple of weeks,” he said. “It turns up the pressure.”

It’s not all bad, some say. Simmons believes one reason the NCAA extended the dead period was to prevent coaches from visiting prospects at high school all-star games.

The NCAA, though, created a separate rule prohibiting coaches from attending games. That rule was approved along with the dead period extension.

Coaches descended on all-star games as if they were scouting camps. The lobbies of all-star team hotels were full of coaches, parents and players — a sort-of “speed-dating event” for recruiting, Simmons said.

Some coaches even bought suites at the hotels for meetings with recruits.

“It was a circus,” Simmons said.

For coaches, the extended dead period offers a monthlong break from recruiting. The only other time that happens is in late June and July.

“I’m sure they like it,” said Scott Kennedy, national director of scouting for Scout.com. “Any time they can stay off the road for a couple of weeks and charge their batteries, they like it. Any time they have a forced rest period, they’ll rest.”

But could this rest come at a later date, Curtis asks, instead of just days before Signing Day?

Until a change is made, seniors like Dupre and his parents will experience a jam-packed ending to January.

Said Curtis: “It creates some hardships.”