Pat Forde and Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports! released an interesting article today on the giant loophole in a NCAA recruiting rule being exploited by, specifically, Oklahoma State.
Although, really, it's not so much exploitation as it is hilarious ingenuity.
The crux of the Yahoo! piece stems from a flier for an Oklahoma State camp that will pair high school recruits in the state of Texas with assistant coaches from the Cowboys program.
Except the camp isn't run by Oklahoma State. That would be a violation of NCAA recruiting rule 188.8.131.52, which essentially limits where football programs can run such camps if they're out-of-state, based on distance from campus. In this instance, a camp in the state of Texas would be considered a no-no for OSU.
Rather, Forde and Wetzel explain that the Oklahoma State camps are run by Division III program Mary Hardin-Baylor. Any OSU assistants who work the camp are considered employees, but they still have the same access to recruits as if the camp was operated and run by OSU. And, hey, maybe as an added bonus Mary Hardin-Baylor picks up interest from a kid or two along the way.
It's so clever that Texas coach Mack Brown, who is president of the American Football Coaches Association, thinks the rule could probably be done away with altogether. Not because it's wrong necessarily but because coaches have once again outsmarted the system.
Brown told Yahoo! Sports that if the loophole is so easily exploited in Texas by out-of-state schools, then "let's clean it up and make it legal," essentially undoing the 2007 rule and ending all the confusion.
It's an interesting take from a coach who was so vocally opposed to several recruiting deregulation rules proposed by the NCAA earlier this year. College athletics' governing body, for all the flak it receives, was on track to do the right thing by loosening recruiting rules that were largely unenforceable anyway.
But a group of opposing voices to deregulation, led primarily by the Big Ten, got their way, and the status quo remains largely in place. The fear was never that a school felt it couldn't regulate itself, but rather that another school (or conference) wouldn't have to either.
So if coaches and athletic directors got into a stink over unlimited text messages and letters, it's easy to imagine the general attitude they'd have toward lifting a rule prohibiting where a competing program can and can't have a summer camp. After all, that's where the meaningful recruiting really gets done.
In any case, it appears the loophole is on its way to being closed up anyway. John Infante of Athleticscholarships.net writes that the definition an institutional camp could change in the NCAA's eyes as early as October:
More likely is we will see the loophole quickly eliminated, as early as October when the Division I Legislative Council and Board of Directors meet again. One change would be to tweak the definition of an institutional camp to include one which “uses an institution’s name, logo, or trademarks”. Alternatively or additionally, the rules about football coaches working noninstitutional camps could be changed.
That should make Brown happy, if for no other reason than the loophole is gone. But the rule and subsequent sidestepping by schools actually serves some positive purposes. Coaches get to interact with recruits and small schools get to leech off some leftovers and widen its branding scope.
The obvious downside is the potential for recruiting violations or money handshakes at camps like these. It's practically unavoidable. But it's also more likely to be rampant at a 7-on-7 tournament where coaches aren't allowed to attend.
Ben Kercheval is the Lead Writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless specified otherwise. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval.