UCF’s biggest issue: they were dumb enough to get caught

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Since Pete Thamel of the New York Times broke the story back in April of 2011, plenty of words have been written about the scandal at Central Florida.

If you’ve forgotten, the gist of the story is this: UCF’s coaching staff for the football and basketball teams, as well as the school’s Athletic Director, went through a pair of people associated with Andy Miller’s sports agency to land a trio of recruits. (Ironically, none of the three notable players ever ended up playing a game for UCF.) Earlier today, the NCAA handed down their punishment — for hoops, it was a one-year postseason ban, a three-game suspension for head coach Donnie Jones that was served last season, the vacation of wins between 2008 and 2011 and a reduction in scholarship and recruiting days.

But out of all the things that have been said over the last 16 months about Caldwell and UCF, the only thing you really need to pay attention to is this quote, delivered to Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com by an anonymous head coach:

“I’d say 99.9 percent of us [have used third-party recruiters]. How else do you get a player? But Caldwell was sloppy. I mean, what’s the difference between Ken Caldwell and World Wide Wes? The difference is that one is smart and one is dumb. One is on Twitter and one isn’t.”

And that, frankly, is all you need to know.

It’s so cliche at this point to say it, but it’s also so true: this is how recruiting at the highest levels of basketball works. Every elite player has a guy, an advisor, an AAU coach, a go-between. Sometimes, those third-party recruiters have the best interest in the players in mind and are simply as a buffer between the player and the throng of coaches chasing him. But too many times, that recruiter is out for his own benefit, whether he’s trying to secure a shoe deal for his team or earn money as a runner for an agent or simply looking to steer the recruit to whichever school is willing to put the most money in his pocket.

The problem isn’t that UCF and Caldwell violated the rules of the NCAA, it’s that they violated the one rule in recruiting that actually matters: “Don’t Get Caught.”

Think about it like this: if World Wide Wes is Stringer Bell, than Caldwell is Jesse Pinkman.

If you’re a head coach operating under the watchful eye of Yahoo and the New York Times the NCAA, who do you want to be going into business with?

(Photo via Ken Caldwell’s twitter)

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