Baylor’s Recruiting Strategy: Do the Ends Justify the Means?Posted by rtmsf on April 9th, 2012
It’s no secret among college basketball observers that the recruiting prowess of Baylor’s Scott Drew has been largely looked upon with a skeptical eye. In just the past three recruiting cycles, Drew has signed top 10 prospects Perry Jones, III, (2010), Quincy Miller (2011), and Isaiah Austin (2012), making the Christian school in Waco, Texas, one of the premier destinations for elite high school basketball recruits in the country. To those skeptics, Baylor’s quick ascendance from Big 12 doormat to national relevance perhaps signaled that Drew’s recruiting bounty may have been achieved through extraordinary measures — some of which may have been counter to the rules and regulations of the NCAA.
The critics appear to have some basis. According to a report released today by ESPN.com’s Jason King, both Drew and Baylor women’s basketball coach, Kim Mulkey, presided over staffs who rampantly and repeatedly violated NCAA rules via text and phone communication with prospects during impermissible periods. Most of these contacts were alleged to have occurred during a 29-month span from 2007-10, but the total number of violations are staggering — 738 impermissible text messages and 528 impermissible phone calls between the two programs.
In a bit of an ironic twist, it was Baylor women’s star Brittney Griner — the Anthony Davis of the women’s game — who in 2008 as a high school star originally notified the NCAA about Baylor’s impermissible contacts. She eventually signed and matriculated at the school anyway, leading the Bears to a flawless 40-0 title season in 2011-12. Since the majority of these contact violations occurred from 2-5 years ago, and the men’s program has since reached two Elite Eights and the women’s program has made an Elite Eight, a Final Four, and won a National Championship, is it wrong to suggest that the illicit contacts performed by Baylor staff to entice elite recruits such as Jones, Griner, Miller, et al, was well worth the risk?
Certainly Baylor will have to pay something for these indiscretions — the school has already limited its recruiting windows for certain coaches including both Drew and Mulkey, and an assistant coach who tried to coerce AAU coaches to lie on his behalf has been terminated. It’s even possible that due to a lack of institutional control over these communications, one or both head coaches will have the dreaded ‘show-cause’ penalty attached to their titles for several years. But that is an unlikely outcome, and it’s equally unlikely that the NCAA will hammer the program with a major probation beyond what Baylor’s Athletic Department has already self-imposed. So this begs the ultimate question — assuming (perhaps naively) that Drew and Mulkey have gained control of their staffs’ phone calls and text messages to recruits so that a Kelvin Sampson-like penalty as a repeat offender does not await either coach, and assuming that the NCAA doesn’t come down much harder (if at all) on Baylor basketball, doesn’t the end justify the means for Baylor fans here?
Regardless of any additional restrictions imposed by the NCAA, Baylor presumably will still recruit at a very high level and will remain eligible for the NCAA Tournament (recent violators Indiana and Tennessee both remained postseason-eligible). Partially as a result of their over-the-top recruiting tactics from several years ago, both Bear programs now enjoy status as top 20 stalwarts that put players into the professional ranks. Any penalties levied on the school — more limited recruiting, fewer scholarships, fewer official visits — are not as detrimental to Baylor today as they would have been in 2008 prior to their continued recruiting successes and deep runs into the postseason. In the calculus of big-time college basketball, where program-making recruits can be won over at the margins of the gray areas, doesn’t it make more sense to push the envelope with excessive phone calls and text messages to get elite players on campus first, then deal with the consequences of such actions later? Unless the NCAA wants to send a message that crime in any form doesn’t pay, Baylor basketball has perhaps unwittingly provided a neat little road map for other coaches at schools considering a rule-bending strategy for a short period of time to give themselves a leg up in recruiting. Wouldn’t that make for quite a nice legacy?