FEATURE: Managing Football On and Off the Field
Oct. 20, 2016
Ole Miss sophomore Javon Patterson’s involvement with football is not difficult to see during Saturdays in the fall. He contributed immediately for Ole Miss as a freshman, starting half of the games he played. This year, he’s taken over full starting duties at left guard.
However, that’s not the only involvement Patterson has with the game of football. He currently serves on the NCAA Ad Hoc Recruiting Working Group, a national committee that conducts a comprehensive review of Division I football recruiting legislation. They will deliver a report to the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee later this month to give recommendations on how to make recruiting better for everyone involved, including coaches and players.
“Over the summer, we talked with a bunch of coaches, athletics directors and NCAA workers. We talked about different recruiting calendars for the coaches,” Patterson said.
The discussions are conducted over the phone once a week. And don’t worry; the calls didn’t cut into his preparation for football.
“It’s not really time consuming. It’s a Thursday thing,” Patterson said. “It’s a call during the day.”
That did not mean the calls weren’t about substantial topics. Not many stones went unturned in the recruiting process for the working group. Improvements can’t be made if everything is not discussed.
“We talk about the whole recruiting calendar, visit periods, non-contact periods and when players can have official visits,” Patterson said. “We talked about things like doing official visits earlier during a player’s junior year of high school.”
If at least 75 percent of the group agrees to a proposition, the potential rule change is listed on the report for a meeting. Some of those discussed rule changes include an early signing period for football, spring evaluation periods, junior year official visits and not shortening the fall contact period
Some parts of recruiting can be inconvenient for those involved. The NCAA working group tries to iron some of those out to find the most efficient way to do things for high school players, college players and the coaching staffs.
“We work on how it would be for coaches to be with their team during the season,” Patterson said. “Some coaches go out and watch on Friday nights to recruit. Most of the time, that can be a celebrity show. They’re going to take pictures, but really they’re just trying to watch kids.”
The current players are able to give a different perspective than coaches or athletics directors can. They recently went through the recruiting process as high schoolers, and they understand the dynamics of recruiting on a current college player. Since he’s played so much for Ole Miss in his first two seasons, it’s easy to forget that Patterson signed his National Letter of Intent fewer than 20 months ago.
“We know more from the kids’ perspective in high school, and also from the players in college too,” Patterson said. “How would you like your coaches to be around? We talk what dates the coaches can recruit and things like that for times that they can be with their family and times they can be with their team.”
While serving on the working group is a testament to Patterson’s character beyond his blocking ability, it’s also an opportunity for him to meet people he otherwise would not.
“At the end of July, I went to the NCAA offices, and we had a meeting all day that went pretty well,” Patterson said. “It was cool to meet the other players in the group there.”
The group is comprised of just a selective few. In total, there are only 16 representatives from colleges, with only four players on the roster. The only universities with a student representative are Ole Miss, Boise State, Ohio State and Oklahoma. Patterson is one of only two Southeastern Conference representatives on the working group.
“(The) FedEx (Student-Athlete Success Center) nominated me for it,” Patterson said. “They did a great job of putting my name out there. The Lord led me to become one of the recruiting advocates for the NCAA.”
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