End the Madness: NCAA Recruiting and Taxes

Gary BrownCorrespondent IIApril 15, 2010

SYRACUSE, NY - MARCH 27:  Head coach John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats reacts in the final minutes of the second half against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the east regional final of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Carrier Dome on March 27, 2010 in Syracuse, New York. West Virginia won 73-66. (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
Chris Chambers/Getty Images

It's April 15. High school basketball players have their college picks secured, and you HAVE to file your taxes for 2009.

Remember, it is first, and most important, to your local politicians that you prepare, file, and pay your taxes. Second, and much more critical to you, is the anxiety of where high school student-athletes in the country will choose to play college football and/or basketball.

One causes you to lose sleep over concerns that you might receive notice from the IRS wanting to know more about that "business" trip you took to Paris last year. The latter somehow validates the credibility of your favorite college team.

What we wonder at College Sports Matchups is why both of these have to be so complicated.

There is no reason for taxes and college recruiting to not be easy, and not cause near the level of anxiety that they do. We also believe both can be fixed.

We will start with the more boring of the two—taxes—and thus keep it short; because we know you would rather talk sports than taxes.

Get rid of the current tax code and go to a single flat tax. Everyone pays. EVERYONE. No exceptions. There are no deductions for any reason. Your tax form is less than half of a page. It asks you to simply tell how much income you had, attach the documentation for it and then provide a place to complete the simple calculation for what you owe.

The legions of accountants, lawyers, and government employee unions that thrive financially on the current system will object. Count on the ruling class to have issues as well, as they like a difficult tax system so you can’t easily figure out just how much you owe. The upside comes for scores of taxpayers who will rejoice at how much easier it is to pay their fair share.

Tax fact: 47 percent of US households will pay no taxes for 2009.

OK, now on to college recruiting.

Have you ever looked at the rules for recruiting college athletes? The NCAA rule book that schools must comply with is over 400 pages long and is about as interesting to read as the tax code.

What is the result of all of these rules?

Individual schools rack up numerous secondary violations that are reported each year, which result in hundreds of these indiscretions every year that range from the “stupid mistake” category to the “we are fudging things just a little” column.

In compliance office circles it is even acknowledged that not turning in a few of these small offenses each year can cause the NCAA to be suspicious of a school’s internal auditing. Think about it. The NCAA has created a system that wants its members to self-report violations so they can know the rules are being followed. The whole system sounds like something created by the IRS.

Here are two opinions about any system of rules: First, whenever it becomes so you can’t help but break the rules, or there are contradictory elements within them, the system has become too complex.

Second, when something is already too complex the key is not to add more complexity, but to simplify.

So, how do we simplify the current process schools and prospects endure to achieve the annual harvest of student-athletes? Here are a few ideas to get the conversation started.

  • Any prospective student-athlete must be academically qualified to be offered a scholarship to a school.
  • All scholarship offers must be in writing.
  • Schools may not over sign classes in anticipation of losses for various reasons.
  • Allow schools to sign a student-athlete at any time they choose. The scholarship cannot be revoked.
  • Once a coach offers a scholarship to a student-athlete they have to cease contact with said recruit.
  • Scholarship offers have to be in writing.
  • Once a prospective student-athlete makes an announcement of a commitment to a school, all others must cease contact with him and cannot offer him a scholarship in the future.
  • Athletes may visit a campus only once related to athletic purposes. All subsequent visits must be coordinated with the admission office of the university and may not include game tickets or interaction with athletic department staff in any manner. Visits must meet the criteria of visits experienced by all students considering the school for general admission.
  • Representatives of an institution’s athletic interest may only visit a recruit’s home once.
  • Representatives of an institution’s athletic interest may only visit with a player on his campus once.
  • Any recruiting efforts made by athletic boosters of a university will result in the recruited student-athlete being made ineligible for participation at the institution.  
  • Violation of the rules will result in significant and immediate penalties.

The results of simplifying the rules to these basics will be a reduction in time coaches use to recruit players, a reduction in expenses incurred by schools to woo prospective athletes, and fewer interruptions in the lives of the student-athletes, who should go through their college decision much the same way other students do.

Another by-product of this rule simplification will be to create a more level playing field for schools that do not have large budgets for recruiting.

So, who will be opposed to this idea? For starters, websites and newsletters devoted to recruiting, schools that have significant budgets for recruiting, and high school coaches who like to rub elbows with college coaches and elite players and relish the exposure of the recruiting trifecta (media, fans, and coaches).

Who will be a fan of the new rules? Parents who want their kids to have a normal life, high school coaches that are looking for fewer distractions for their teams, and college coaches that would like to see the current process made better.

Will we see the NCAA throw out the current complex way of handling recruits, and move to something that can be accomplished with a single sheet of paper?

We probably have a better chance of a simplified tax code, so don’t bet on either occurring in this lifetime. You should probably plan for just the opposite, because what governing bodies tend to do when things become too complex is create more rules.

Note: This item was originally posted in December of 2009. Being April 15, we thought it a good to to post again.  



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