If rule passes, it will be broken

Published Jul. 14, 2010 1:00 a.m. ET

It’s a rule proposal that has coaches laughing.

"Why legislate something that can’t be enforced,” Virginia Tech men’s basketball coach Seth Greenberg said while watching a summer tournament down in South Carolina.

The NCAA’s Division I Recruiting and Athletics Personnel Issues Cabinet has come up with the brilliant idea of trying to pass a proposal that says college coaches won’t be able to give scholarship offers to recruits until July 1 just prior to their senior season in high school.

It’s comical.

"It’s not worth putting in something that is almost impossible to monitor,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "I understand the issue, but don’t think that’s the answer.”

In recent years, it’s become more prevalent that college basketball coaches — from ex-Arizona head man Lute Olson to former Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie to Illinois coach Bruce Weber — have extended and accepted scholarship offers from kids prior to or early in their high school careers.

Former USC coach Tim Floyd, now at UTEP, took a commitment from then-Illinois eighth-grader guard Ryan Boatright a few years back. He also took a pledge from Dwayne Polee Jr., before he ever played a high school game.


"We felt as though we had to do it,” Weber said. "It’s become somewhat of a niche for us, and it’s worked.”

Weber has certainly quieted the Illini fan base with the commitments of highly touted guys like Jereme Richmond, Meyers Leonard and Crandall Head, who are all incoming freshman this season.

If this proposal passes in January, when it could potentially go up for a vote, it would become an illegal practice.

But let’s face it. It won’t end.

It’ll continue because the NCAA would never be able to catch anyone. So why even bother?

There’s too much confusion these days with whether a school has truly put forth a scholarship offer, anyway.

This new proposal is headed up by UCLA senior associate athletic director Petrina Long, who chaired the cabinet.

Long is, by all accounts, an intelligent person with a resumé that includes having spent the past six years at UCLA, more than a decade in administration at UC Irvine and a lengthy stint at Columbia University.

But this proposal wasn’t given much thought.

It’s all semantics, the art of offering a college scholarship, since there’s no written document — and nothing is binding until the prospect signs a letter-of-intent during his senior year.

There’s plenty of confusion on both ends whether a scholarship offer is actually on the table. In fact, many schools throw them out to recruits even prior to watching them — just because they don’t want to lose ground in case they want to recruit the player.

This new rule, if it gets stamped by the NCAA, would just add more confusion to the mix.

"The verbiage will change,” UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. "But people will still offer scholarships.”

They’ll just do it more carefully.

It’ll be coaches telling kids that “we’re going to offer you a scholarship the first day we are able” instead of actually tossing it out there.

There’s basically no difference.

Most coaches are in agreement they don’t offer scholarships prior to the point when a recruit begins high school, but they feel that July 1 prior to the senior year is far too late.

"It would be a bad decision from a time management and a fiscal responsibility standpoint,” Greenberg said.

It will mean coaches will be wasting money chasing players who already know in their minds where they are going, but aren’t allowed to make their decisions public.

The NABC’s recommendation a year ago was not to allow scholarship offers prior to the completion of the sophomore year.

While that’s certainly more reasonable, it’s still nearly impossible to monitor.

No coach is going to hold off taking a commitment from a player who wants to come.

"I understand the rationale behind the consideration of the legislation,” said Arizona State coach Herb Sendek. "But there are unintended consequences to always regulating to the lowest common denominator.”

"It’s just going to be a wink and a nod,” added Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt. "What are we supposed to say when a kid wants to come? No? I think it puts us in a bad spot.”

It’ll just be yet another rule that’s broken.