Over the last few years, many NCAA Division I universities have begun offering athletic scholarships to progressively younger student-athletes. Both student-athletes and institutions have much to gain from early informal athletic scholarships. This Article argues, however, that the costs of these early scholarships outweigh the benefits for both student-athletes and institutions. Although the NCAA has laudably begun the process of curbing informal scholarship deals with underclassmen, this Article argues that existing practices are unlikely to change unless the NCAA adopts regulatory strategies fundamentally different from simple prohibitions of the sort recently considered and rejected. Real reform will be difficult to achieve unless institutions bear real costs for pursuing underclassmen and the value of early scholarship deals is diminished. This Article makes a proposal to accomplish real reform by actually allowing these early informal commitments. Although this may seem counterintuitive at first glance, the Article shows that this proposal will discourage institutions from making early scholarship offers and therefore constitutes real reform. Granted, no proposal is perfect. Nevertheless, the one made here hopefully will advance the dialog that takes place as the NCAA evaluates a new framework to deal with the difficulties of early recruitment
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