GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida making a bowl game was big for a little-known but important reason other than just getting an extra 15 practices for development or having the chance to secure a 10th win in the 2018 season.
And key in-state rival Florida State not making one had some tangible consequences.
NCAA rules require players to take seven days off from all countable required athletically related activities following the end of a season. Those activities include hosting official visitors on campus.
“A lot of the NCAA rules right now is, when the season ends you go into your [seven days] where you can’t have team activities,” Mullen said. “So our guys continuing to be able to work out, actually being able to host in recruiting I think is a huge deal.”
Because of the relatively new early signing period, December visits to campus are more important than ever. Under the old NCAA calendar, coaches typically had their biggest recruiting weekends in January leading up to the February National Signing Day.
Now the push comes earlier, as coaches lock up the majority of their class in the early signing window. Each December weekend has become more important.
With Florida State’s season ending on Nov. 24, the Seminoles couldn’t have players host official visitors on campus last weekend (official visits typically run Friday through Sunday, and the Seminoles’ seven-day period wouldn’t have ended until Sunday, as visits were ending). Florida State could still have official visitors on campus — it had one last weekend — but not having players able to show them around or hang out with them is a serious hit. You’re better off waiting until the players can be involved to host most of those visits.
Florida, on the other hand, had four official visitors last weekend and was able to have players freely interact with them and host throughout the weekend.
“It’s hard to have a recruiting weekend when your players are not allowed to be involved in any way, shape or form,” Mullen said. “Can’t host. It’s a tricky deal. It just is, it’s a big benefit for every part of the program.”
Mullen is looking to make a major jump on the recruiting trail this weekend and next after hosting four official visitors last weekend. Florida’s class current ranks 20th nationally and 10th in the SEC, but the Gators are still in the thick of it for several top-notch prospects.
The Gators will also be opening up three practices to the public next weekend, looking to squeeze whatever ounce of additional buzz they can from the fanbase with key recruits in town. Without a bowl, you also don’t get the chance to show your program in action.
“We’re still playing, so our [seven days] off start on the 30th,” Mullen said.
Does it make it a tough task to land key recruits when your players can’t host them on campus for one of those key recruiting weekends in December?
“It’s a tough deal,” Mullen said.
Editor’s Note: An earlier published version of this story indicated that the mandatory time-off period following the conclusion of a season was two weeks, not seven days. Mullen said the period was two weeks in his comments at a Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl press conference, as well, but a Florida spokesman provided clarification on the NCAA rules relevant (220.127.116.11.7 and 17.02.14) and 247Sports has updated the story to reflect the correct time period.