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Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: What Are The NCAA Implications Of Calipari's Invitation UK's NBA Alumni?

John Calipari's recent high-profile invitation to former UK players now locked out by the NBA to come to Lexington to train and perhaps study has drawn a lot of comment, both serious and otherwise.  So what, if any, would be the NCAA implications of having professional players on campus during the summer?

Turning to the 2010-11 rulebook, the first potential pitfall we run across is this rule

13.02.14 Representative of Athletics Interests. A "representative of the institution’s athletics interests" is an individual, independent agency, corporate entity (e.g., apparel or equipment manufacturer) or other organization who is known (or who should have been known) by a member of the institution’s executive or athletics administration to: (Revised: 2/16/00)

(a) Have participated in or to be a member of an agency or organization promoting the institution’s intercollegiate athletics program;
(b) Have made financial contributions to the athletics department or to an athletics booster organization of that institution;
(c) Be assisting or to have been requested (by the athletics department staff) to assist in the recruitment of prospective student-athletes;
(d) Be assisting or to have assisted in providing benefits to enrolled student-athletes or their families; or
(e) Have been involved otherwise in promoting the institution’s athletics program. [my emphasis]

Because of their prior participation in UK athletics and public statements in support of same, former players would likely be considered "Representatives of Athletics Interests," aka a "booster."  Boosters, as we have found out over the years, can be almost anyone and is not limited to such things as having actually provided financial support to the school in question, holding season tickets, etc. 

Boosters are of special concern to NCAA school's compliance departments, because the NCAA requires the school accept responsibility for the actions of boosters, and that definition is deliberately vague and extremely broad.

The implications are in this rule:

13.1.2 Permissible Recruiters. General Rule. All in-person, on- and off-campus recruiting contacts with a prospective student-athlete or the prospective student-athlete’s relatives or legal guardians shall be made only by authorized institutional staff members. Such contact, as well as correspondence and telephone calls, by representatives of an institution’s athletics interests is prohibited except as otherwise permitted in this section. Violations of this bylaw involving individuals other than a representative of an institution’s athletics interests shall be considered institutional violations per Constitution 2.8.1; however, such violations shall not affect the prospective student-athlete’s eligibility.(Revised: 8/5/04) [my emphasis]

What this means is that any of Kentucky's recruits who are not enrolled in UK may not have contact with the NBA players, assuming any take up Calipari's offer.  To do so would be a violation of the rule, except for "unavoidable, incidental contact," and I think Sandy Bell would be very concerned about that, as more than one incident would surely be seen as a failure on the part of the institution to ensure compliance.

So now the question comes, could these pros play pick-up games with current enrolled Kentucky players?  Yes: Competition against Professionals. An individual may participate singly or as a member of an amateur team against professional athletes or professional teams. (Revised: 8/24/07)

"Individual" in this context means both enrolled and non-enrolled players, but the booster prohibition above would prevent prospective student-athletes from playing with the professionals.

But there are pitfalls here as well, primarily involving organization and school representation.  In the off season, the team members could join in pick-up games with the pros, but they would retain the same restrictions as current pick-up games, i.e. not advertised, no coaching staff involvement, etc.

This, at least, is my reading of the rules.  Discuss.