NCAA Closes Recruiting Loophole — Sort OfPosted by jstevrtc on January 14th, 2010
According to this report from CBS Sports, earlier today the NCAA passed legislation regarding a subject they’ve been talking about tackling for years, specifically that of basketball programs hiring “anyone associated with a basketball recruit for a two-year period before or after the player enrolls at the school.” Gone, therefore, are the days when a coach could entice a prized recruit to play at his program by also offering up a job as an assistant coach or administrative assistant (fill in whatever title you wish) to the recruit’s high school or AAU coach, or to a family member.
Don’t be fooled — this tactic is as much in practice today as it was in the past. A piece by the inestimable Andy Katz published at ESPN.com back in September brought up the matter of Louisville’s Rick Pitino hiring an assistant coach from star recruit Marquis Teague’s high school team as an assistant at the U of L program, and that many people are questioning the timing. At the beginning of the article he cites several examples of programs hiring associates/family members to help land recruits: during Bob Huggins’ one year at Kansas State, the program hired UNC-Charlotte assistant Dalonte Hill (Michael Beasley’s AAU coach); Beasley decided to get out of his initial commitment to Charlotte and head to K-State soon after. Danny Manning’s father was on Kansas’ staff during the Danny and the Miracles title year, and Mario Chalmers’ father was a staff member on their championship team from two years ago. John Calipari hired Milt Wagner to his staff right around the time that his son, prized prepster DaJuan Wagner, had signed with Memphis. It’s true, in each of these situations, there were reasons to hire the associate/family member other than their relation to the star player, and many of them were in their positions before and after the player came or left. The point is, though, that shady or not, this stuff happens. We know why it happens. And the NCAA has now attempted to do something about it.
So, as a result of this ruling, are those days really gone? In my view, there are four questions that are immediately raised as a result of this legislation as it’s worded:
- What does “associate” mean? Obviously this would include family members, and you’d have to throw in a player’s high school coach, AAU coach, and any assistants. But what if, say, an assistant coach only coached a star recruit for a single year, or part of a season? Is he/she really an “associate?” I guarantee that there will be college coaches who will try to find ways to get around this rule by downplaying how much past association actually existed between a recruit and the associate whom they want to hire as part of the package deal.
- What’s the penalty if you get busted? If you recruit a kid and it’s later found that there was some association between that recruit and somebody you hired onto your staff inside of that two-year restricted period, what then? Is there a standard penalty, or is it another case where the NCAA can take each case individually and therefore continue to hand out justice with the uneven and often misguided hand for which it’s now known?
- The little guys have to be especially careful as a result of this ruling. Smaller colleges usually draw players and coaches from high schools within a smaller surrounding geographical contour. What if a small college hires a nearby high school coach onto their staff? Does that mean that they can’t sign a recruit from that high school for two years? Or if the college signs a nearby recruit, are all coaches from that high school prohibited from accepting a job at that college for the next two years, even if they merit such a position by their own hard work and/or coaching abilities? You could actually have high school coaches competing with their star players for the chance to move up to a certain college.
- Finally, since college coaches start recruiting kids as early as grade/middle school, it’s pretty obvious that a college coach would conceivably find a spot for a prep coach two years (or more) in advance as long as their high school’s star freshman or sophomore would subsequently sign with their program in a couple of years. When guys like Xavier Henry, John Wall, and Avery Bradley were high school sophomores I guarantee there were programs out there who would have gladly found some job for their high school coaches (or other “associates”) if they thought it would help their program’s cause in signing at least one of them, even knowing the players were likely to stay for just one season. Is this OK with the NCAA?
- (Note to fans/supporters of those players/schools: I just chose examples of excellent freshmen from this year. I could easily have thrown in names from other schools from other seasons. No accusation of wrongdoing is implied. Hold your fire.)
Surely the NCAA knows that when you create rules, there are going to be exceptions to those rules, and so you’re going to have people filing for waivers to those rules. That leads to everyone who wants to get around it searching for reasons why they’re exempt. While this legislation is a small step in the right direction by the NCAA, I wouldn’t make those back-pats too robust, yet. They now need to iron out a few things, like determining what an associate is, what situations will be allowed, and what the punishment will be for breaking the rule. Without that information, in all likelihood the NCAA will just continue to enforce this rule (and all their others) where it wants, and, when they hand out punishments, aim them at the wrong people.