Recruiting Infractions in College Sports

Steve O Speak

By Fanspeak Contributing Writer Geoff Nelowet:

This past week, major recruiting infractions were found within two premier sports programs on opposite coasts: The University of Connecticut basketball program and the University of Southern California basketball and football programs. With both schools, there are numerous allegations filed against them by the NCAA – all of which deal with breaking the rules in recruiting through making improper contact with players or by giving gifts or monetary benefits.

For USC, this is nothing new. The Trojans have a substantial line of recruiting infractions, and they already vacated the entirety of the 2007-08 basketball season after it was released that former basketball player OJ Mayo was given numerous gifts – and $1,000 cash from former head coach Tim Floyd. USC is now facing charges against the recruiting of former USC superstar Reggie Bush, and the Trojans may face vacating wins within the 2003-05 seasons, which includes a national championship.

The University of Connecticut scandal comes as a slightly bigger surprise only because they do not have a storied tradition of NCAA rules violations. According to ESPN, “Members of the men’s basketball staff exchanged at least 160 impermissible telephone calls and at least 191 impermissible text messages with recruits.” If those numbers are correct, the Connecticut staff clearly has no regard for NCAA rules. We are not talking about one or two mistakes – we are talking about continual disregard for NCAA policy. This, of course, is not to say that the U-Conn men’s basketball program is any worse than any other major Division I program – because they’re simply the ones that got caught.

It is safe to say that a vast number of Division I athletic programs break NCAA rules. I would not be surprised if substantially more do than don’t. It seems that the NCAA is not taking an active role in regulating the recruiting processes, and they should share a large part of the blame. Of course it is not feasible for the NCAA to monitor every phone call or text message, but they could at least work with the NFL and NBA so that players are required to stay in school for four years so that, at the very least, Joe McKnight might not be driving around in an SUV that was gifted to his girlfriend by a local businessman for a couple more years.

It seems that if athletes were required to stay in school for four years, it would put an inherent emphasis on collegiate sports as short career – not a stopgap between the pros. College sports is quickly becoming the minor leagues for the NFL and the NBA. Referring to a Division I athlete as a “student-athlete” is for the most part, laughable. If Division I athletes were forced to commit to college for four years – or at least be banned from the pros until they are four years removed from high school – than maybe the mindset would change, and maybe college athletes would be less of a commodity and more closely associated with the “student-athlete” moniker. Maybe Brandon Jennings would find Europe less enticing if he knew he would have to stay overseas for four years instead of one.

In any regard, these recruiting infractions need to be prevented because the integrity of college sports is rapidly collapsing. Not to mention, the NCAA basketball talent pool has been severely depleted over the last two decades by the lucrative NBA contract. It is in everyone’s best interest to minimize these recruiting infractions and a good firs step would be to force athletes to wait four years before going pro.

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