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August 06, 2004

Will New Rules End Recruiting Excesses?

FROM NEWSPAPERS, WEBSITES, SPORTS TALK SHOWS, AND ALL MANNER OF COMMUNICATION OUTLETS ACROSS THE LAND comes a maelstrom of swirling comments about the new NCAA rules for on-campus recruiting visits.

At last count, the eagle-eyed Clips monitoring department had counted no less than 281 separate news items on this hot topic.

Distilling the main theme of those dozens and hundreds of different articles was easy, because they tripped over one another to say the same thing ad nauseum. To paraphrase the entire bunch: it’s too bad that a few bad apples had to ruin it for the large majority of schools who have conducted recruiting visits with integrity and good sense.

In the absence of specific prohibitions, a few ballsy programs had stepped far over the line that defines acceptable behavior, and they did so in such an audaciously exaggerated and extravagant manner that the NCAA’s hand was forced.

A “sense of entitlement” for wide-eyed high school recruits was orchestrated with impunity at several we-don’t-care campuses. The litany of private jets, limos, female hostesses, alcohol / sex parties and dinners in fabulous restaurants boggles the imagination. Mainstream media ran a seemingly unending series of scandal stories with legs enough to last for weeks at a time.

One school dropped a cool $140,000 in one weekend wowing 25 recruits.

And the Willie Williams Diaries for the Miami Herald provided a bird’s eye view of a system that had gone undeniably awry.

Amidst cries that something had to be done, the white knight NCAA galloped in to do what they do so well.

Highlights of the new rules:

• Charter flights or private planes on recruiting trips will now be prohibited.

• Only school vehicles or standard-equipped vehicles will be allowed for local transport.

• Recruits can be provided typical meals and rooms, but no five-star restaurants and hotels.

•Jerseys and scoreboard presentations to entice recruits shall now be no-no’s.

• Colleges must adopt a written recruiting policy. Issues to be addressed include underage drinking, sex, drugs, strippers, curfews and an explanation of how head coaches will discuss the policy with prospects.

Now the extended welcoming committees at the “bad apple” schools will be reminded of a truism of human nature that, in their heart of hearts, they already know so well. That it is far better to voluntarily do the right thing, than to be forced to do the right thing.

So here we have sweeping rules aimed at the cheating few that will unfairly penalize innocent schools.

Life—or the NCAA—isn’t fair sometimes.

Coaches’ reactions had much to do with how much their recruiting visits would be altered by the new rules.

Minnesota coach Glen Mason said, "I don't think the measures are that big. Let's face it: Some of these kids have a distorted view of themselves. They think they are the biggest, baddest guy who has ever come down the road. Things are going to happen you can't control."

Georgia Tech’s coach Chan Gailey: "The NCAA had a knee-jerk reaction. You can't legislate morality, but you can make sure people handle themselves correctly."

More from Gailey, "These reforms are trying to stop what 10 percent of the people are doing. But the other 90 percent have to deal with it, too."

University of Miami coach Larry Coker, who agreed to grant the problematic Willie Williams a tenth chance, said, "They're all celebrities; that's the nature of the game. I just hope the NCAA doesn't overreact."

Hmmm. Read between the lines on THAT one.

Another scary truism might regrettably unfold down the road: Cheaters are cheaters, and they will always wiggle and maneuver to find a way to cheat again.

More later . . .

(this 598 word excerpt—with attendant commentary—was distilled from a 1181 word article from the Washington Post of 8-6-04; a 685 word article from the Savannah Morning News of 8-5-04; a 668 word article from the Associated Press of 8-5-04; plus the accumulated gist of a couple hundred assorted articles from every manner of News, Gazette, Herald, Times, Post, Citizen, Picayune, .com, et al from 8-5-04 and 8-6-04)