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NCAA bringing long-awaited common sense to rule book

Practically from the moment he took the job, NCAA President Mark Emmert has pledged to streamline and add a dose of common sense to a rule book that long ago became more bloated than the aftermath of Thanksgiving dinner. That process began with a summit between Emmert and Division I presidents in August 2011, and took another step Saturday when the Division I Board of Directors approved a change in institutional philosophy in handling recruiting, fairness in competition and benefits that schools may supply to student-athletes and recruits.

“These new rules represent noteworthy progress toward what can only be described as more common sense rules that allow schools more discretion in decision-making,” Emmert said in the NCAA's press release. “This vote by the Board of Directors refocuses our attention on the things that really matter, the core values of intercollegiate athletics.”

Among the newsworthy pieces, which will take effect on Aug. 1:

- Let your texting and tweeting fingers fly. The limits on communication in recruiting are now gone. 

- The USPS will be sure to send the NCAA thanks for some much-needed added revenue, as the limits on sending printed materials to recruits are now gone. 

- In-person scouting of future opponents is now outlawed except in "limited circumstances".

- Recruiting functions no longer have to be performed only be a head or assistant coach.

- The limit on the number of coaches who may recruit off-campus at any one time, commonly known as the "baton rule", has been repealed. 

- Schools are no longer required to provide materials such as the banned-drug list and APR data to recruits.

- Schools are now permitted to publicize recruits once they have signed a National Letter of Intent or other financial aid document.

- Student-athletes may now receive $300 more than "actual and necessary expenses", provided they don't come from an agent or booster. 

- Schools, conferences and the NCAA are no longer barred from providing financial support to student-athletes for academic support, career counseling, personal development and medical expenses.

- Most importantly, the NCAA now pledges to operate under the understanding that, while the organization will do its best to create a level playing field, real-world advantages such as "facilities, geographic location, and resources" are varied among its membership. In other words, the NCAA is now acknowledging the inherent differences between, for example, Florida and Florida Atlantic. 

“These new rules take a significant step toward changing the regulatory culture in Division I,” said Board chair Nathan Hatch, president at Wake Forest. “These changes make sense not only for our administrators and coaches but also for our student-athletes, the students who will eventually play sports on our campuses and the NCAA national office. Most important, we now have guideposts, in the form of the Division I commitments, to shape all our future rules.”

This is not and end game, but rather another step toward constructing an up-to-date, less non-sensical NCAA for coaches, players and recruits alike. How these changes, and the unintended consequences they create, will change the culture inside college football for the aforementioned groups remains to be seen.