Athletic Recruitment

Generally, the PIAA seeks to prohibit athletic recruiting by its member schools.  Indeed, it explicitly warns its members that any school that engages in prohibited athletic recruiting “should do so with the expectation that it will be treated harshly” by the PIAA.

However, the PIAA does recognize that certain forms of athletic recruiting, when limited in form and scope and directed at students who are already part of the member school’s public or nonpublic school system (i.e., its “feeder schools”), may be permitted without jeopardizing the values that the PIAA seeks to promote.

Section 7 of Article VI of the PIAA By-Laws deals specifically with the issue of athletic recruiting.  It sets forth a definition of “recruiting,” and follows it with 13 separate illustrations of conduct that would fit within the definition of recruiting.

The definition itself is therefore of paramount importance.  It reads:

“Recruiting which is materially motivated in some way by an athletic purpose is defined as efforts by a school, or any of its employees, agents, or representatives, to engage in, support, or condone conduct whereby a motivating factor is to seek out one or more athletes to attend a particular school; to promote a school’s athletic program or personnel other than as part of the overall program at the school; and/or, to provide preferential treatment or attention to prospective enrollees who are athletes.”

Interspersed among the 13 illustrations of prohibited forms of recruiting are descriptions of exceptions and qualifications to those prohibitions.  Consequently, the permitted and forbidden types of conduct are best summarized in tabular form on the following pages.

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Prohibited Conduct

Permitted Conduct

1.

Placing an advertisement directed toward prospective student-athletes that touts the athletic successes of the school or its athletes, outside of the entire scope of the school. Publishing a comprehensive brochure that discusses most or all of the aspects of the school, including its interscholastic sports programs, as long as it does not “focus” on those parts of the program.

2.

Providing student-athletes at another school, including a lower-level school, with free transportation or free or reduced-price admission to an athletic event. There are several exceptions to this general prohibition:

  1. Providing free transportation or admission for students at a designated “feeder school” of the high school.
  2. Providing these benefits to all of the students, or all of the students in the same grade, at the same school.
  3. Providing free or reduced-price admission to all members of youth sports teams, under certain conditions: (1) Public high schools may do so only for teams based within the geographic boundaries of the school district; (2) Private high schools may do so only where the team is affiliated with that school’s sponsoring entities (e.g., the Catholic dioceses, churches, and parishes that maintain or govern a Catholic high school); or where at least 50% of the team members attend a “feeder school” of that high school.

3.

Using AAU or other amateur athletic coaches to steer students to a particular school. No exceptions allowed.

4.

Offering, to an athlete, scholarships or financial aid that is not available to other students at the school. No exceptions allowed.

5.

Encouraging the parents or other relatives of a student-athlete to influence the student to enroll at the school in order to play sports. This conduct is permitted with respect to students who attend a “feeder school” of that high school.

6.

Promising playing time or a position on a team to a student. No exceptions allowed, not even for students at “feeder schools.”

7.

Meeting with athletes of another school, including lower a level school, individually or as a group, to encourage them to attend a particular school. There are several exceptions:

  1. Meetings may be held with athletes who attend the “feeder schools” of the high school.
  2. Schools may host open houses which all potential students may attend.
  3. School personnel may visit non-feeder schools and speak to entire classes at that school.  Note:  Athletic personnel (i.e., coaches, athletic directors, or other representatives of the school’s sports programs, whether paid or volunteer) may visit non-feeder schools, along with other school personnel, as long as no part of the appearance by the athletic personnel was focused on the school’s athletic program or athletes, or on the promotion of the coach’s role in the school’s sports program.

8.

Providing free transportation or any other inducement to a student-athlete to take a qualifying examination of the school, or to meet with school officials. This conduct is permitted if these opportunities are provided to all students at a particular school or grade level.

9.

Athletic personnel may not, directly or through another person, encourage a student-athlete to attend their school. There are two exceptions:

  1. The student-athlete attends a “feeder school” of that high school.
  2. This restriction does not prohibit school personnel from responding to purely student – or student family – initiated inquiries to the personnel about athletic programs at the school.  Coaches and boosters should refer such inquiries to the athletic director or to the director of admissions for non-feeder school students.

10.

Providing any item advertising or promoting the school (e.g., shirts, jackets, pennants, caps, etc.). These items may be offered to all students in a particular school or class.

11.

Athletic personnel may not attend a lower-level school contest and speak to any players immediately before, after, or during the game. There are three exceptions:

  1. The players attend a “feeder school” of the high school.
  2. The athletic personnel merely attend the game without speaking to the players.
  3. Individual athletic personnel may speak to the players if that individual’s son or daughter is a member of the team.

12.

Enrolling a student from another school who played on a team that is “affiliated with” school, but which is not directly operated by the school (e.g., an AAU, American Legion, or club team).  A team is “affiliated with” the school if it is coached by the school’s athletic or non-athletic school personnel, or contains a majority of players who attend the school. No exceptions are stated. Note:  This rule is broad enough to severely restrict the coaching of non-school teams by school personnel.

13.

Athletic personnel of a school may not organize, lead or participate in a sports camp, clinic or banquet in a way that promotes their own school’s athletic program. Athletic personnel may engage in these activities if they do not engage in promoting their own school’s athletic program while doing so.

District Committees are empowered to hold hearings and make findings regarding complaints of athletic recruiting.  If the school or its personnel are determined to be in violation of the Recruiting Rules, severe penalties may be levied against the school by the PIAA.  In addition, coaches may be suspended from coaching for a period of at least one year.