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A Vote for Simplicity

The rules and regulations of the NCAA get more complicated every year.  Last week, facing allegations of rules violations UConn Basketball Coach, Jim Calhoun, defended his techniques by pointing to the size of the NCAA rulebook. “If we made mistakes, someone else will judge us out of that 508-page manual,” he said. “That is the NCAA manual.”

But, it’s not just the size of the current rule book, it’s the growing number of ways around the rule book.  Take a look at the numerous ways Kentucky Coach John Calipari has successfully recruiting players while not committing a single violation.  ESPN’s Pate Forde writes to Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart:

Everyone in basketball knows William Wesley, aka Wes, even if nobody knows exactly what the loosely defined but tightly connected power broker does. But the important thing isn’t his job description — it’s his results. Wes helped hook up Memphis with some of its best players under Calipari: Dajuan Wagner, Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Tyreke Evans.

With those guys under his wing, Wes went wherever Wes pleased in Memphis — locker room, practice facility, good seats at the FedEx Forum, too. Heck, I even ate with him once at the Tigers’ training table. He’s a charming guy, has a lot of charisma — just don’t ask him too much about his business.

With Wes, your job is to accommodate. Not interrogate.

What’s your outlook on package deals, Mitch? You cool with them? If not, I suggest a change of attitude. When Calipari goes after big fish, the net tends to bring in some sucker fish, too.

When he signed Juanny Wagner, he also got his dad as a staff member (Milt Wagner, even without a college degree) and his best friend (Arthur Barclay, despite limited ability). A positive side effect: Milt stayed several years after Juanny left and got his degree.

When he signed Evans, he got his personal strength coach, Lamont Peterson, too. But really, what high school kid doesn’t come with his own strength coach these days?

And there even have been some prepackaging efforts. C.J. Henry, who hadn’t played basketball in years after trying his hand at professional baseball, enrolled at Memphis this past August to play hoops. Surprisingly enough, his brother, Xavier — considered by many the No. 1 high-school senior in America — signed with the Tigers in November.

What about an occasional scrape with the law, Mitch? Guys such as Sean Banks, Andre Allen, and Kareem Cooper got multiple chances to stay on the Memphis team and still couldn’t do it.

Any opinion on prep schools, Mitch? Some of them have gotten a lot of negative publicity as academically sketchy diploma mills in recent years from the likes of The New York Times and Washington Post, but be prepared to deal with them. Calipari has relocated many an academic reclamation project to prep school. Among them: Joey Dorsey, Shawne Williams, Antonio Anderson, Robert Dozier and the aforementioned Cooper.

Again, these stories are troubling, yet legal recruiting methods. But what is lurking around the corner? Scott Soshnick at Bloomberg News wonders:

What happens, though, when the technology changes faster than the rules?

The NCAA has opened an investigation into the Yahoo report on UConn. To expect coaches and athletic directors to self- report infractions is unrealistic. There’s too much at stake.

It used to be that a coach visited a promising athlete’s house, sat with the parents and pleaded his case for Whatever U. Now it’s only a matter of time before Steve Jobs concocts an iPhone application for recruiting.

The NCAA simply can’t keep up. It doesn’t have the manpower, money or high-tech savvy.

The governing body for college athletics will have to rely on the appropriately named whistleblowers.

My opinion is there is only one direction for the NCAA to go, legalize it all.  Leave extremely simple contact rules in place that are consistent across all sports.  Decide which rules are absolutely the most important and forget about counting texts.  I think everyone can agree on outlining exactly what can be counted as compensation and outlawing it.  Sure some grey areas would remain, but if a coach wants to waste a roster spot for a package deal let him.

What is the alternative?  What we have right now.  Every few years a school gets caught and the national press comes down on the coach, but everyone knows deep down that the coach wasn’t cheating any more than any other coach.  He just got caught.

I believe simplicity will lead to some real clarity.

About the author
Aaron Sorenson