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June 30, 2004

NCAA Sets To Restrict Recruiting Excesses

FROM THE YAWING GAP THAT CHARACTERIZES BIG-TIME COLLEGE RECRUITING come hints of impending rules and regs from the NCAA task force charged with instilling sanity and equity into a process that has often gone amok.

Likely to be restricted:

• First-class airfare or private jets for recruits.
• Special vehicles, including Hummers, Ferraris and vintage Packards.
• Expensive meals that an athlete would not normally be offered once enrolled.
• Use of scoreboard video presentations and jerseys with the recruit's name on them.
• Special host / hostess programs.
• The $30 spending money currently provided to players to entertain recruits.

Task force member--and Texas AD--Chris Plonsky said, "An appropriate term might be to turn down the volume on it a little bit.”

Alcohol / drug / sexual abuse, police activity and cover-ups have propelled over-the-top recruiting practices of big football programs into the national spotlight.

Starry-eyed recruits—some as young as 17 or 18 years old, away from home for the first time—have been showered with attention usually associated with rock stars: private jets, trick vehicles and expensive meals.

In the Darwinesque big-get-bigger top echelons of Division I-A football—with no specific rules to stop them—the big schools have been able to flex their muscles with huge spending to impress top recruits.

For example, Oregon’s total football recruiting budget this year was $600,000. AD Bill Moos unapologetically stated, “We can afford it.”

The diary written for The Miami Herald by prized Florida recruit Willie Williams made public the highly unrestrained recruiting process. Williams wrote about huge meals (four lobster tails and two steaks in one sitting), private jet transport, a Jacuzzi-equipped hotel suite and being chauffeured in a plush Cadillac Escalade.

"When someone makes a campus visit it should be very typical of what their student experience is like," UT's Plonsky said. "We should not be presenting an unrealistic picture."

These recruiting experiences are anything but typical of the college experience for the masses.

If one were to poll a thousand college students, there might be a dozen or so who ever experienced such extravagances during their college days. Maybe eight of them would be football players and the other three or four would be offspring of very wealthy parents.

The proposal to eliminate private jets has caused plenty of fret among football programs. Schools distant from major airports would be put at a considerable disadvantage.

Examples of schools distant from major airports: Kansas State-100 miles, Baylor-90 miles and Texas A&M-95; miles. Also, Missouri is a two-hour drive and Oklahoma State is about an hour from major airports.

Texas A&M; AD Bill Byrne recounted the upping of the ante that private jets caused when he was at Nebraska, “Instead of a $700 commercial ticket, it was a $7000 private jet. It was ridiculous. Our recruiting expenses went up exponentially.”

(this 472 word excerpt—with attendant commentary—was distilled from a 1236 word article in The Dallas Morning News of 6-29-04 and a 2588 word article from The Oregonian of 4-18-04)