The Riley Nelson rule

There’s a bunch of scuttle, discussion and chatter on the Internet about an NCAA rule change affecting the recruiting of athletes while they serve church missions.

Technically, the new rule does not specify a religion, but in this neck of the woods it’s clear where the impact will be felt.

Here’s the wording of the rule change:

“Official Church Mission. An institution shall not contact a student-athlete who has begun service on an official church mission without obtaining permission from the institution from which the student-athlete withdrew prior to beginning his or her mission if the student-athlete signed a National Letter of Intent (NLI) and attended the institution (with which he or she signed the NLI) as a full-time student. If such a student-athlete has completed his or her official church mission and does not enroll full time in a collegiate institution within one calendar year of completion of the mission, an institution may contact the student-athlete without obtaining permission from the first institution.”

For BYU fans, it points to the departure of quarterback Ben Olsen.

But if anyone out there thinks this is designed to prevent future Ben Olsen scenarios they might want to more closely inspect the proposal.

Why? It was sponsored by the Western Athletic Conference.

Utah State, in case you forgot, was the recent recipient of a missionary poaching when Logan High golden boy Riley Nelson defected from USU to BYU while he was serving a mission in Spain.

It’s no secret folks at Utah State, the WAC and other schools who have seen LDS athletes transfer to BYU while serving an LDS mission without losing a year of eligibility.

Here is the official reasoning behind the rule as submitted by the WAC:

“An official church mission is a time when an individual should not have to deal with distractions due to numerous recruiting contacts by coaches. In many cases, the missionary’s church may restrict contact between the missionary and his or her family and friends to correspondence and two phone calls per year. Current legislation allows for active recruitment of such a student-athlete to recommence after he or she has been officially withdrawn from a four-year institution. Recruitment during the mission experience detracts from the goals and focus of the mission. In addition, many resources are expended in recruiting prospective student-athletes. The fact that a student-athlete who serves an official church mission will once again become eligible for recruitment discourages many schools from recruiting those prospective student-athletes prior to their missions. This proposal would protect such student-athletes and the institutions with which they sign National Letters of Intent from external recruiting interferences during the student-athletes’ missionary service.”

The rule goes into effect August 1.

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