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NCAA rulebook underwent major changes on Saturday

Jan 21, 2013, 12:30 PM EDT

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You might have missed it on Saturday, as the news came through the grapevine during the best afternoon and evening of hoops that we have seen yet this season, but there were significant rule changes made to the NCAA rulebook.

The NCAA’s Board of Directors voted in changes ” to deregulate in several areas, including personnel, amateurism, recruiting, eligibility and awards, benefits and expenses, and create a set of commitments that will serve as the foundation for all future rules changes.”

You can read the full list of rules that were changed in the NCAA’s release here, but some of the notable changes that have been made:

- There are no longer limits on the number of phone contacts that coaches can have with recruits. They are also now allowed to mail as many printed documents to recruits as they would like. Schools can also now hire recruiting coordinators that aren’t on the official coaching staff.

- Programs can now provide “reasonable entertainment in conjunction with competition or practice”, which means that the oft-cited rule that bagels, but not cream cheese, could be provided is not longer a running joke on the NCAA’s ineptitude.

- Players will be allowed to “receive $300 more than actual and necessary expenses, provided the expenses come from an otherwise permissible source”, meaning as long as it’s not coming from a booster, an agent, a runner or a pro team.

Dan Wolken’s take on the changes is spot-on:

A change like that, Emmert said, would have probably been a “drag-out fight” as recently as last year. But with the NCAA coming under heavy attack for its lengthy rulebook and how it approaches the increasingly complicated issues of amateurism, a new philosophy is necessary. There are bigger issues to deal with than how many times coaches text recruits.

“We’re not going to overcome those natural competitive advantages people have, but when student-athletes step onto the field they know the other team has same number of players and scholarships,” Emmert said. “They may have a fancier stadium, but we have a chance to beat these guys because there’s competitive fairness. We heard that again and again from student-athletes. That’s what they wanted. They’re smart kids. They know who’s got the shiny locker room and who doesn’t. It’s, ‘Can I go out there and play against these guys?’ I think the students got that faster than the rest of us.”

That’s a completely different tone coming out of the NCAA, but these are different times. Emmert, for all the criticism he has endured, seems committed to reforming the organization into a more nimble beast that can serve the interests of a diverse group of schools while maintaining (as best it can, given the money involved) the bedrock principles of amateur athletics.

This doesn’t solve all of the problems involved with the NCAA rulebook and their commitment to fallacy of amateurism in college athletics.

But getting rid of the lines in the rulebook that are utterly inane and laughable is a significant move in the right direction.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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