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NCAA Rules: The Facts Are Not On Mike Krzyzewski's Side

Let's get one thing straight right now -- if the facts surrounding Duke Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski's contact with 2012 recruit Alex Poythress have been related correctly, there is no question whatever that he violated NCAA Bylaw (b).  None.  Whatever.  To wit:

According to Poythress, Coach K actually called a Georgia Stars coach, who then told Poythress to call Krzyzewski himself. The prep star did that, and Coach K answered, had a conversation with the power forward and offered him a scholarship. While that might have made the Duke coach feel that he was safe since he didn't place the call himself, that typically matters little when it comes to contact in the eyes of the NCAA. According to NCAA statutes -- or at least the interpretation of those statutes by a handful of different writers and at least one NCAA high major conference assistant coach -- Coach K is probably in the wrong for answering the call at all.

According to the NABC website, here is what the bylaw in question prohibits, condensed down to bullet points:

Prohibited Contact [Bylaw (b)]

During a certified event, Division I coaches are prohibited from having contact at any location with:

  • Prospects;
  • Family members of prospects;
  • Prospect's coaches (nonscholastic and scholastic); and
  • Anyone associated with a prospect.

So if Poythress is correct, and there is no reason to disbelieve him, Krzyzewski actually committed two NCAA violations here:  Contacting a prohibited coach, and the contact with Poythress (which is not even allowed if Poythress initiates the call, by my reading of the rules): Practice or Competition Site. Recruiting contact may not be made with a prospective student-athlete prior to any athletics competition in which the prospective student-athlete is a participant during the day or days of competition, even if the prospective student-athlete is on an official or unofficial visit. Contact includes the passing of notes or verbally relaying information to a prospective student-athlete by a third party on behalf of an institutional staff member and telephone calls. Such contact shall be governed by the following: (Revised: 1/11/89, 1/10/91, 1/11/94, 1/9/96 effective 7/1/96, 9/18/07) [My emphasis]

This rule seems to supersede the general allowance of telephone calls initiated by the recruit and at the recruit's expense in Bylaw  I'm not sure of that reading, but the "bump rule" [Bylaw 13.02.4] requires the coach to be "innocently" approached by the prospect, his parents, or somebody associated with the prospect, and the coach must exchange no more than pleasantries and act to end the contact immediately.  So not only did Krzyzewski "prearrange" the contact by a call to a coach, he had the contact, did not act to end it, and in fact took advantage of the opportunity to offer a scholarship (a recruiting activity).

If the essential facts related by Poythress are true, there is no question as to the violation.  A rules interpretation different than mine might limit the number of actual violations to one instead of at least two, but there is no question at all about whether a violation took place.

Many have suggested that the NCAA might just overlook this, but it cannot, and will not.  The reason is this:


Penalties imposed for recruiting violations committed by Division I coaches during the July evaluation/dead periods will result in enhanced penalties (a four-for one basis) regardless of intent.  For example, one impermissible contact by a coach in July could result in a loss of two contacts during the upcoming academic year and two days off the road in July the following year for all members of the coaching staff. [My emphasis]

Even minor violations in July are no small matter.  Krzyzewski and Duke will suffer a reduction of at least four and more likely eight permissible recruiting contacts during the upcoming academic year.  The NCAA purports to take violations during the dead period and the July evaluation period very seriously, and I am certain they will not make an exception for Coach K, even if it was an honest misreading of the rules.  That's what "regardless of intent" means.

Bottom line -- this is not something the NCAA can just ignore because it occurred during an enhanced penalty period and it is such a clear-cut violation.  Duke will be sanctioned, and about that there can be very little doubt.  The NCAA allowed Duke out of the Myron Pigge/Corey Maggette matter by using the "they did not know, and should not have known" component.  That's not available to them here.

I fully expect Duke to report the violation after due investigation, and take the penalty which the NCAA must impose.  We don't have to like them, but there is no reason to cast aspersions on the character of the Duke in this case.  I'll reserve judgment on Krzyzewski until additional reporting is done.  This is not a mysterious rule, and a coach of his years and experience should know it by heart.