Well. It's been about a week or so since Michael Avery committed to Kentucky and the whole firestorm about early recruiting consumed the media. I can tell this story is finally starting to lose steam, because most of the opinion pieces on it today are laughable, some of them hilariously so. Some writers, and one academic, are trying so hard to come up with new and creative reasons to scold early commitments and the coaches who accept them that they are in serious danger of becoming self-parodies.
Case study #1 -- Bob Hill of the Louisville Courier-Journal. His was so easy it didn't even merit a front-page comment, just this FanPost. I won't flatter it by adding anything here.
Case study #2 -- the Fayetteville Observer. That's right, brothers and sisters of the Big Blue Nation, one of Tobacco Road's finest decided to smite the Philistines of Kentucky with righteous haughty outrage:
Perhaps even more ridiculous is Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie’s eagerness to accept such an early commitment. It’s not like Kentucky is some hungry mid-major that needs to get in early — and here we’re talking really early — on top prospects to make its mark.
We can be certain that in the summer of 2010, there will be dozens of talented Class of 2012 prospects wanting to play for the Wildcats. So why not wait and see who’s the best of the litter then?
I'm sure the author would agree with me that one should make sure his own house is in order before pointing to a mess in his neighbor's, especially if he wants to be taken seriously. I wonder if the writer of this sanctimonious little screed knows that both of Gillispie's commitments are 15 years old? I wonder if he further knows that North Carolina's Roy Williams accepted a commitment from Kendall Marshall, who was a whopping 15 years old at the time, just last year? I'm thinking not.
Case study #3 -- The Herald-Leader. Our favorite (oh, stop, you know you love it!) newspaper decided to get on it's high horse today, as it and it's competitor in Louisville are often wont to do, and chastise the University of Kentucky for not paying enough attention to academics. How did it make this case again, for the 500,000th time? How about this:
Closer to home, University of Kentucky basketball coach Billy Gillispie has reached agreements to play at Kentucky with two boys -- an eighth-grader and a ninth-grader. One of them did not know where he was going to high school until last week. UK also has made a scholarship offer to another ninth-grader.
UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. initially seemed shocked that Gillispie was going after such young players but within a week had come around so completely that he spent a half-hour recruiting the ninth-grader.
So how did the LHL use this little anecdote as evidence that UK is not paying enough attention to academics? I'm not sure. The entire opinion piece makes no sense at all to me. It reads like someone intended to make a point about something, forgot what it was, and just writes a conclusion at the end that has no relationship to the dialog. I think this is a new theory about writing opinion pieces -- if nobody can follow your point, they can't say you are full of it.
Case study #4 -- Miles Brand, NCAA President. Via a Jerry Tipton article (oh, no -- did I say "Jerry Tipton?"), Miles decides he hates the whole early recruiting thing and thinks it ignores academics. Well, at least now we know where the authors of the opinion piece above got the idea from.
Brand welcomed the National Association of Basketball Coaches' look into the propriety of its members recruiting middle-schoolers. "Whether it's professional behavior or not," Brand said, before adding, "and that seems appropriate."
The NCAA will not seek to pass legislation to ban such commitments. Instead, Brand said, the NCAA will look to create an atmosphere that inhibits the offering of scholarships to prospects so young. He called for a reform of the "pre-collegiate environment" with the help of such entities as the NBA, high school federations, USA Basketball, the NABC and shoe companies. "Make it less unsavory," he said.
Just exactly what in the name of James Naismith is this psychobabble supposed to mean? My goodness, if you are going to say something is bad, how hard is it just to ban the practice? God knows, the academics that make up the NCAA's governing body won't require much of a shove.
But nooooo. Instead, Brand "welcome[s]" the NABC's "look" into the propriety of it's members. This is absolutely cowardly, Dr. Brand, and just reinforces why the NCAA is the brunt of jokes around the sporting community. Why wait for coaches to examine the issue? Is it bad or isn't it? As to the pre-collegiate environment, the NCAA is largely responsible for that abomination with their shoe-company money grubbing on one hand and their pious pronouncements on the other. Once again, the old proverb "Better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt" would seem to apply.
I give up. Nobody wants to take anything like the lead on the young recruitment issue. Instead, everyone wants to pass the buck while condemning the practice, and then only as long as their ox isn't the one being gored. Does this remind you of anything? Congress, perhaps?
That's probably the next stop for all this, and why not? If you can accuse the BCS of violating anti-trust law, almost anything is possible.
UPDATE 05/14 7:38: It's easy to be a critic, but part of that is noting when journalists write really good and thoughtful commentary. This article by the Bellevue (Washington) Reporter is such a piece. More, please.