Analysis: No Bright Lines in College Basketball Recruiting

Today, we have an interesting article from the Washington Post describing how "street agents" and hangers-on are no longer just for the elite recruits like O.J. Mayo and Michael Beasley.  Nowadays, any player with even mid-major talent can attract flies, and some of those flies can be more than just a distraction to college coaches -- they can cause coaches to flirt with NCAA recruiting violations, even unknowingly.

The story is about a guy named Joe Davis, who through connections with his family, wound up looking after the interests of Mychal Parker, a 2010 Rivals.com 4-star who is interested in Kentucky, among many other schools.  Parker is a talented player, but by no means elite, or even particularly likely to ever play in the NBA.

The gist of the story is that Davis, who apparently runs one of those increasingly popular Internet scouting services where colleges can subscribe to his website and obtain scouting information on recruits, was allegedly beginning to control access to Parker by asking for favors and even employment.  The Post article contains a bunch of unattributed quotes implicating Davis in schemes to sell access to Parker for various perks or employment opportunities, but has nothing there that would constitute actual proof of such things.  Still, there is quite a bit of thick, gray smoke raised by this piece.

So what's the connection to Kentucky?  Read on after the jump.

We know that Kentucky is at least somewhat interested in Parker, although Rivals does not list UK among those offering a scholarship.  Still, this gives me a tiny bit of pause:

One reason commonly cited for the proliferation of third-party recruiting is the way the NCAA limits contact between college coaches and recruits. On the first Monday of July, the walls throughout Cincinnati's Fifth Third Arena were adorned with signs explicitly stating that college coaches could have no contact with any player, any player's AAU coach or anyone affiliated with a player. NCAA bylaws designate July as an evaluation period for college coaches, who may observe but not interact with prospective recruits. The NCAA dispatched enforcement officials to many AAU events this summer, in part to monitor coaches' actions.

...

Virginia assistant Ron Sanchez conversed with Davis throughout the second half. Maryland Coach Gary Williams and assistant Rob Ehsan chatted with Davis after the game finished.

Before OBC's second contest a few hours later, Davis spoke separately with Kentucky assistant Orlando Antigua and Virginia Tech assistant Bill Courtney. [emphasis mine]

Okay, so what does this mean?  Well, probably nothing, but it is troubling because if the NCAA were to somehow see Davis as representing Mychal's interests (i.e. "affiliated" with him), I suppose the coaches involved could possibly run afoul of the rule mentioned in the first paragraph.  That seems to be only one of the dangers in associating with these guys, and the inability of almost anyone to talk on the record just shows that the NCAA rule is making it even harder to really figure out who's on first.

Frankly, I can only see this getting worse, and I don't really know that there is anything that can be done by the NCAA that won't threaten their antitrust status.  I suppose the best we can hope for is some kind of clear guidance from them about what constitutes an off-limits person during the evaluation period.  For all I know, such bright-line guidance already exists, but I'm not really aware of it if it does.

Anyway, this is just another illustration of the many potential "gotchas" just waiting to jump up and bite college coaches in the nether regions.  There is no way compliance directors get paid enough money to monitor all this amorphous crap -- they must just do it for the love of parsing minutiae.

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