College Basketball: Why Fans and Critics Are Not Fazed by Recruiting Violations
It seems like every week, a different college basketball program or coach is accused of NCAA recruiting violations.
Jim Calhoun and the Connecticut Huskies lost almost an entire starting five because the team was banned from the post-season for breaking NCAA rules.
The Tennessee Volunteers lost the coach that was supposed to bring the program back to national prominence and is now rebuilding.
But with the ever-increasing number of programs that are accused and convicted of disobeying the NCAA, more and more fans and critics simply sigh and move on.
Such is the world of college athletics.
Recruiting violations are blasé.
It has happened a million times and it will happen a million more. There is simply no point in paying attention anymore.
But what is at the root of college basketball fans’ sudden nonchalance?
In trying to crack down, the NCAA has actually managed to give its own policies less weight.
Everyone Does It
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Show me a coach who does not bend the rules in his favor and I’ll show you a coach who hasn’t had a relevant college basketball program in years.
Isn’t that how the saying goes?
To put it simply, I do not believe that there is one coach at a BCS school who has been able to abide by every single recruiting rule during his tenure.
Coaches from the loveable Bruce Pearl to much-maligned John Calipari and even the legendary Jim Calhoun have all hosted the NCAA Committee on Infractions for various violations.
It is simply an unspoken truth that every major college coach must engage in some sort of rule-breaking in order to keep his job. One coach at a mid-major school summed up his reasons for not wanting to take a major-level job in terms of recruiting:
"Recruiting at the high-major level is extremely complicated and, in many cases, corrupt. If I was to take a high-major job, I could be entering myself in all sorts of scenarios that I can usually avoid where I am now.”
I cannot imagine one person in the country who thinks that their college coach is completely uninvolved.
Sure, some violations are worse than others, but that line is becoming more and more blurred. If everyone participates in cheating to some degree, how does a casual fan decide what to get worked up about and what to simply ignore?
For many, the answer is to ignore it all.
NCAA Rules Are Too Strict
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Does anyone know all of the NCAA rules about recruiting?
Do college coaches even know all of them?
Given how many rules there are and how specific the language can be, it’s doubtful. There are so many numbers and dates and ifs and clauses that there is just no way one person can keep track.
Is it really that over-the-top to think that some coaches that have been accused of violations do not actually understand the rule they have broken?
The NCAA should try and make it easier for college coaches, not harder. Coaches already have one of the most stressful jobs in the country with thousands of screaming fans wanting perfection and school administrators waiting in the wings to fire them for the slightest hiccup.
What is the NCAA even achieving with all of these rules?
It would most likely be easier for the committee to regulate if a more compact system were put in place and it would certainly be harder for coaches to weasel their way out of violations.
No one cares about coaches breaking the rules because no one really knows or understands the rules to begin with.
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John Calipari left the Memphis Tigers amid an NCAA investigation over whether or not freshman phenom and current NBA MVP Derrick Rose had submitted invalid SAT scores.
What if the NCAA had discovered Rose’s and Memphis’ infraction before the season? Would college basketball had been better off if Rose had been forced to spend a year in junior college before taking his talents to the big stage?
College basketball fans would have been robbed of one of the most exciting national championships ever between Rose’s Memphis team and the Kansas Jayhawks and been denied a bonafide star.
True, a scholarship should not be given to a student that did not earn it, thereby denying someone else an education.
But instead of blaming the college basketball system, maybe the NCAA should start looking at the root of this problem—high school education.
Players that are talented enough to play at a good college program should be given every opportunity to succeed and play.
What did Enes Kanter do to deserve losing an entire season in which he could have been playing basketball? He took money from a professional team.
How many college athletes have taken money against NCAA rules? I bet many did so because they actually needed it for themselves or their families.
Instead of punishing those kids, maybe the NCAA should try punishing the boosters that offer the money in the first place.
Fans deserve to see great basketball and are denied an opportunity to if players are declared ineligible.
Cheating Is Too Hard to Define
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The rules are too complicated, everyone cheats and it is impossible to know who is really to blame.
So what exactly is considered cheating?
Is it sending one too many texts to a recruit who has a question about campus life? Is it giving players small cash bonuses for helping the university rake in millions of dollars in ticket sales?
The line has been blurred for a long time. The NCAA has basically said, with their thick, complicated rule-book, that everything is cheating.
No matter the coach’s intentions, no matter the situation, if the action was against the black and white words in the book, it is wrong.
But the problem, then, is that the black and white rules in the book actually create an extended grey area in which fans and critics are trying to decide who to punish for what.
According to the public, John Calipari is a dirty cheater and always will be. Bruce Pearl, on the other hand, was a gregarious, fun-loving guy who truly enjoyed coaching college kids.
But which coach is currently without a job? Pearl.
Is that fair?
Depends on who you ask.
And thus begins the grey area.
For many fans and critics, following every single recruiting violation is simply not worth it. There is no logical way to determine who is truly guilty and who deserves a second chance so why bother at all?
It Has to Be Done
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Among the college basketball head coaches to be fired this off-season are Darrin Horn, Bruce Weber, and Seth Greenberg. But that is not nearly the full list.
College basketball coaches are hired and fired almost as quickly as Anthony Davis slams home alley-oops.
The job is one of extreme uncertainty and continually trying to live up to ridiculously high expectations.
Each year, basketball fans expect their team to turn the corner and finally become one of the top squads in the country. And even worse, when a coach already has one of the top teams, fans expect national championships year in and year out.
University officials desperately want the money that a successful basketball team can bring in to the school. And if a coach is not delivering, no one will hesitate to cut him loose.
Coaches must do whatever they can to cope with the demanding reality that they live in. And that means breaking a few rules along the way.
Basketball recruiting is a cutthroat process and can be the difference between a national championship and an NIT-berth. Just ask the Kentucky Wildcats and former coach Billy Gillespie.
With no other recourse, coaches resort to backyard barbecues, sending swag through the mail and hiring AAU coaches with connections.
The coaches that do not use such extreme measures do not usually last very long at big-time basketball programs.
My guess is that the majority of fans would prefer that their team commit small violations in order to get good players rather than be completely and utterly clean, but fail to win any games.