Regulating recruiting in the 21st century ain’t easy

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The social media age is a great one to be living in.

Whether it be via email, AIM, Facebook, Twitter, or Skype, its never been easier — or cheaper — to keep in touch with friends and family around the world. Whether I’m tweeting with a friend touring Europe with his band or looking at pictures of my Uncle’s birthday party in Alaska, the world is closer than a phone call. Its the click of a link away.

As great as social networking is for the general public, its an even greater annoyance for the NCAA. The more methods there are for communicating, the more complicated the NCAA’s regulations on contacting recruits gets. John Infante of the By Law Blog explains:

Much of the backbone of the NCAA’s regulation of recruiting contact is based on the medium a coach uses to get in touch with a prospect. An email is seen as different than a text message (email is unlimited starting with the junior year of high school, text messaging is prohibited). A voicemail is seen as different than an audio file sent via email (voicemails are treated like phone calls, audio attachments are mostly prohibited). Videoconferencing is treated like a phone call rather than face-to-face contact.

Social networking has always had to fit into these definitions. If a message looks like email, it’s regulated like email. If a conversation looks like instant messaging, it goes into that pigeonhole. Not to mention that social networking introduces a much more nuanced approach to the idea of public vs. private messaging.

It may seem like tortured logic to say that Twitter direct messages were like email, and thus permissible to prospects who had started their junior year. It might make you scratch your head further to learn that if the prospect received updates of those messages via text messaging, they suddenly became impermissible.

Complicated, right?

Becomes a bit clearer why NCAA investigations take so long, doesn’t it?

And now things will get even more complicated thanks to a new “modern messaging system” that facebook has implemented:

The messaging system is also designed to be platform-agnostic, so users can send and receive messages via mobile, IM or Facebook. It’s designed to make it simpler for users to communicate in real-time with their real friends, wherever they are. The system will be rolled out slowly over the next few months in an invite-only process, Zuckerberg says.

Have fun trying to put regulations on that.

The biggest issue here is that the NCAA is operating in an era where phone calls and text messages are not only the easiest, but the only form of communication. Simply put, the NCAA isn’t adapting to the times. I haven’t, either. I don’t video chat with people. I’m rarely on facebook anymore. And I’m 25. I’m no where near as social media literate as the average high schooler.

And therein lies the problem.

The people making the NCAA regulations aren’t from the internet age. They didn’t grow up with AIM, where you were forced to block your parents so they couldn’t see your away messages. They didn’t go through college on facebook, which forced you to put privacy settings on your photos once your Grandmother friended you.

As Eamonn Brennan explains, the newest generation of high school recruits understand how to insulate themselves from unwanted attention:

The point is, the kids are all right. They know how to manage their incoming stream of text-based coaching communications no matter the format. They understand that the inbox can be a wonderfully insulated place. It’s easy to respond to the messages that matter and easy to ignore the ones that don’t. And if you’re willing to grant that e-mail use should be unlimited, and that cost is the main reason for regulating text-based communication — insane cell-phone bills were one of the main reasons the NCAA banned SMS messaging last year — then you should follow suit with Twitter, Facebook, and the like. (As for phone calls? Many would argue that phone call restrictions are dumb, too. Coaches don’t land recruits with extra dials. But the cost issue is still there, and it makes sense.)

So what’s the answer?

Long story short, there isn’t an easy one. For every option provided in Infante’s post, there are a unique set of advantages and disadvantages, and there are people a lot smarter than me working out the kinks.

But what’s clear is this — the kid’s that text, tweet, facebook message, and video chat on their iPhone’s are more equipped to deal with the deluge of coaches contacting them than the NCAA decision makers that are at regulating those coaches.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.