NCAA targets third-party individuals in basketball recruiting
I just wrote a story about an NCAA proposal designed to address many of the issues we have detailed over the past few years. Here is the gist:
The NCAA Division I Board of Directors will consider a new set of recruiting restrictions in men’s basketball aimed at cracking down on college coaches who engage in controversial and creative practices that enable coaches to gain access with prospects for a price.
The reform package, which will be considered at the board’s Oct. 29 meeting, is the latest attempt by the NCAA to keep pace with individuals perpetually looking for loopholes in men’s basketball recruiting rules. The proposal is intended to address the growing number of ways money is being funneled to individuals associated with prospects.
Jim Delany, the Big Ten commissioner, called the current basketball recruiting landscape “chaos” in the news release, saying that “if you starve the system of money, prospects will be free to make decisions on the basis of the right educational and athletic considerations, rather than because there is a third-party adult who is influencing him as a result of benefits received.”
In the high-stakes and ever-changing recruiting world, some college coaches have said in order to keep up with competitors they must operate in what is commonly called the “gray area.” Several industry sources have said such activity is nearly impossible to police, but the NCAA promises to hold coaches accountable by suspending violators from postseason or even regular-season play.
Michigan Coach John Beilein, who chairs the NCAA’s Men’s Basketball Ethics Coalition, said the package represents a “positive step toward a fair and level playing field. Most coaches recruit within the spirit of the rules, but whenever someone has the opportunity to exploit gray areas in the legislation, those who abide by the intent and letter of the rules are left at a disadvantage.”
Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim expressed skepticism about the proposal, saying, "Are there going to be some bad cases [among] the 3,000 or 4,000 kids recruited? Yeah, but are you going to legislate it out? I don’t have a lot of faith in that.”
The package pinpoints several specific practices, including many that have been explored in depth in The Washington Post, that are designed for individuals associated with a prospect to make money in exchange for a college coach’s access to that player.
One involves college coaches hiring individuals associated with a prospect for noncoaching positions. For example, highly regarded prospect Gus Gilchrist enrolled at South Florida, and his adviser and personal trainer, Terrelle Woody, was hired as the school’s video and conditioning assistant.
The NCAA intends to prohibit schools from hiring individuals associated with a prospect two years before or after the prospect’s anticipated enrollment. The NCAA’s definition of an individual close to a prospect includes parents, guardians, handlers, athletic trainers and coaches.
Another popular practice is for schools to hire individuals close to a prospect to work basketball camps at their respective schools. The practice has become common, even for mid-level prospects. For instance, Joe Davis, an individual affiliated with prospect Mychal Parker, asked ACC schools to hire him to work their elite camps in exchange for access to the player, sources said.
The NCAA intends to allow schools to hire only its own staff members or enrolled students at its clamps and clinics. It also wants to prohibit payment of fees to individuals associated with a prospect.
What’s more, the funneling of cash recruiting inducements between college and AAU coaches, in the form of tax-deductible donations usually made by college athletic boosters at the behest of the coach, has become common, according to several prominent college and AAU coaches.
Most of the top AAU programs are set up as nonprofits. But because tax laws do not require nonprofits to identify donors, almost all don’t, which makes policing the practice difficult.
Some summer league coaches also charge college coaches hundreds of dollars for copies of “scouting reports” that are often little more than lists of players’ names.
And the NCAA also said the proposal addresses 1-900 numbers set up for telephone contact with a recruit. One elite AAU coach told a reporter that he was planning to create a 1-900 number so he can make money when college coaches call him about recruits.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive, who along with other conference commissioners will present the package to the board of directors, said the reforms draw a “bright line” between what is and is not permissible.
“It has become evident that more individuals have inserted themselves into the recruiting process other than the families of the prospects in a way that is contrary to the spirit of the legislation,” Slive said in the release. “These proposed changed make the spirit of the legislation the letter of the legislation in a way that has not been done in the past.”
The Conference Commissioners Association voted unanimously in September to endorse the package. If approved, the proposals would be effective starting May 1, 2010.
“As always, the NCAA is making an effort to be in tune with college basketball,” Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said. “Clearly, they feel this is an issue that needs to be addressed. We will see how, and if, it affects recruiting.”
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