If you’re into reading about the darker side of college basketball and college basketball recruiting, than Wednesday was a day in heaven for you.
First, it was Eric Prisbell from USA Today delving into the murky waters of the third-party recruiter. And while I’m not going to spoil the story, the part that is the most interesting centers around why is it so difficult to catch these guys.
It’s a thought that has crossed my mind many times. I don’t spend nearly as much time in recruiting circles as lot of the more well-known writers and I’ve heard numerous rumors about Recruit X getting Y amount of dollars from Coach Z. I’m sure there are guys out there that can detail you precise figures for all of the transactions that have occurred over the last decade. How much did OJ Mayo get from USC? Why is John Calipari cornering the market on the blue-chip recruit? What amount of money did it take for Adidas to keep Shabazz Muhammad in the family?
So how come none of this becomes public record? Why aren’t schools getting hammered with NCAA sanctions? From Prisbell’s story:
The problem for the NCAA, according to ESPN national recruiting analyst Dave Telep, is that the schemes are “too easy to get done and too difficult to prove. The people within the world of college and AAU basketball have a pretty good idea that that is out there. They also have no idea how to combat it.”
With the absence of a “paper trail,” Telep said, proving illicit relationships is difficult. More than two-thirds of elite AAU programs are established as non-profits. Some receive a few hundred thousand dollars in donations – in addition to shoe company contracts – according to a review of their tax records.
Policing is difficult because the tax forms often do not disclose specific names of donors. Humphrey, the NCAA official, characterized the non-profit foundation issue as “very high on our radar” and “difficult to track.” But she said AAU teams must cooperate fully during NCAA investigations if they wish to compete at NCAA-certified events, which give prospects the chance to perform in front of hundreds of college coaches.
“We are also very well aware of connections that some of those summer programs — via the agent, via the runner — may have with our own institutions,” Humphrey said. “So we are also connecting the dots in terms of what [college] coaching staff might have some questionable relationships with some of these individuals.”
Gary Parrish followed up Prisbell’s story with a column on how summer hoops hasn’t gotten any less sleazy in the six years since Sonny Vaccaro hung ’em up.
In fact, there’s an argument to be made that things are even worse. Nike and Adidas are just as strong as ever, Reebok is trying to make a comeback, and Under Armour is doing everything they can to work their way into the shoe game. They’re hosting tournaments and sponsoring teams. That’s why you see the Harrison twins, arguably the most sought after package deal in the history of the sport, rocking UA shoes and playing in UA events.
And it’s also why they have become one of the most intriguing recruitments in recent memory:
One of the interesting recruiting battles over the coming months will be for the services of twin brothers Aaron and Andrew Harrison, and most expect it to come down to Kentucky and Maryland.
Why Kentucky and Maryland?
Because Kentucky is Kentucky and John Calipari is John Calipari, and those two entities have a way of getting things done. And because Maryland is the alma mater of Kevin Plank, who is the CEO of Under Armour, which is the company that outfits Maryland’s athletic department and this summer funded the Harrison twins, both of whom are consensus top-10 prospects.
Thank god that we force these kids to remain amateurs and student-athletes to prevent them from capitalizing off of their athletic ability.
Why pay the player when his handler can get rich?
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.