KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The recruiting section of the massive NCAA manual is 49 pages of do-this-don’t-do-that finger wagging at coaches.
Try this translation: You can come face to face with a prospective recruit on certain occasions during a timeframe determined by the NCAA – but not during the evaluation period, when unavoidable incidental contact is permitted as long as it involves only normal civility. Or something like that.
Oh, and don’t use the same door to the gym during summer league games.
Yeah, it’s complicated.
Coaches take tests on it and have cram sessions before recruiting trips. Many still end up scratching their heads.
“It’s fair to say we have to spend enough time to stay on top of it,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “And once you learn something, then you’ve got to be ready to change it.”
Competition to land top recruits and advances in technology have turned the recruiting game into an untenable octopus of rule-skirting possibilities. Long gone are the days when a coach could call or visit a recruit anytime he wanted, maybe take him, his family and coach out to dinner.
College basketball is big business and the pressure on for coaches to land the best players possible or they’ll end up on the street.
Talent is identified as early as grade school and coaches began the wooing early, looking to gain an edge. The Internet, text and instant messaging, and social media outlets like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter have made the slope even more treacherous, leaving the NCAA scrambling to keep up.
“Any time there’s something new that’s out there, someone’s going to get ahead of it and try to use it to their advantage,” said Reggie Minton, deputy executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
“So they’re probably looking every day at how the rules should apply, that they’re not overly restrictive but at the same token don’t allow an unbridled approach to every young person out there.”
The rules are often simple on the surface, but full of tiny details.
Take the recruiting periods. There are four: contact, evaluation, quiet and dead. But within those periods are rules governing the type of contact allowed, covering just about everything but Morse code.
There are edicts on funerals (as long as no recruiting occurs), text messaging (prohibited), attachments in e-mails (color is OK, but only non-recruiting information is allowed), even mail service (first class or lower, no certified or delivery confirmation).
There’s a rule declaring all electronically transmitted human voice exchanges to be phone calls and another preventing coaches from using the same door as a recruit at the July Las Vegas summer leagues.
Read it out loud and you can almost hear Joe Friday from “Dragnet”: “According to article 13, section zero-two-dot-six-dot-two of the NCAA manual … ”
“There’s a million of them,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “It’s all how you look at it. We just keep it simple, check before you do anything.”