What Coaches Can't Tell You about Recruiting

The sports media has an urgent need to know what's going on, not just on the field, but off it.  One sport where this is definitely true is college basketball.  If you go to or the biggest stories are about "who's recruiting whom?" and "Did Coach X speak to Player Y?" and all sorts of speculation as to where the best players will land up.

This acquisition of players by college coaches turns out to be very well protected.  The NCAA has put up a very strong barrier to prevent the media from learning about the recruiting game - one reason that coaches don't talk much about recruiting (until after the fact) is because they can't.

The NCAA Manual has several pages of rules regarding the ins and outs of recruiting.  (One could jokingly claim that the chief recruiter and not the head coach is the most important person in a Division I college program, because failure to master the arcane recruiting rules could put the program on probation and damage several recruiting classes.)  Within these pages are rules dealing with the relationship between coaches, recruits, and the media.

* The media may not be present during any recruiting contact.  Don't expect to see a man from the Hartford Courtant present when Geno Auriemma has been invited to dinner at a prospect's home.  When he was (briefly) the Tennessee head football coach Lane Kifflin fell afoul of this violation, simply by having an ESPN camera present including a few seconds of him sitting down with recruits.

* A coach may only confirm the recruiting of a player, but may indicate nothing as to whether that player will be signed.  When he was coaching Stanford football Jim Harbaugh unwittingly violated this one with some Tweets that hinted at future Cardinal players.

* There is to be no publicity of a recruit visiting campus.  Kentucky men's basketball fell afoul of this one when the crowd at a UK game began chanting the names of recruits present. 

* A visiting prospect may not be "introduced" either to the general public or at an event where the media is expected to be present.  When Alabama football head coach Nick Saban showed up on the videotron at an Alabama men's basketball game sitting next to a highly-touted recruit, the NCAA was not happy.

* Athletic departments may not purchase an advertisement designed to "solicit a recruitment".  Maybe you're Oklahoma State and you just want to hang a banner at a junior college.  BZZZTT!  Can't do it.

* And finally, even though I couldn't find a case where this had ever been violated, take a look at this rule:

NCAA or Conference Championship Posters. An institution or a conference hosting an NCAA or conference championship may produce a poster promoting the championship and send it to a high-school coach and/or his or her educational institution.  It is not permissible to send such a poster to a prospect.

Man, if you can't even send someone a poster of your championship team then the NCAA really is strict.  If universities can't even do that, how much insight do you think a coach is going to give you about the recruiting process?  Slim to none.

Which is very sad.  I always wanted to know what approach a Gary Blair or a MaChelle Joseph used in a recruit's living room.  Did they talk about the school? The program?  The academics?  Hard sell or soft sell?  What kinds of approaches work?  But it looks like that curtain has been drawn shut for the most part, if the NCAA has anything to say about it.

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