From all indications this was a nasty year in recruiting for the Pac-10. Players committed and de-committed at a rapid rate. Coaches are accusing coaches of dirty pool. While they may not have specifically broken any rules, they sure have been less than honorable.
One Wildcat recruit who committed very early in the process was still recruited by other schools even after he said his decision was firm. One of the coaches told him that John Mackovic was going to go pro in a few years.
Washington coach Rick Neuheisel told media sources that UCLA coach Bob Toledo was telling recruits that Neuheisel was going to take the UCLA job at the first opportunity.
"I mean, (head coach) Bob Toledo tells him, 'You don't think that if I'm gone, that (Neuheisel) is not going to be the next head coach at UCLA?' I mean, Bob Toledo is basically telling him he's going to get fired. It's ridiculous," Neuheisel told the Seattle Times.
Arizona fended off schools making a last-second rush. Marcus Smith was almost swayed by a late push by USC. In fact, several California newspapers reported his switch in commitments. Jason Harrison, Ryan O'Hara, Marlon Briscoe and Mike Jefferson were among those who attracted late suitors.
"It's flattering because they tell you how much they want you," Harrison said. "But it is also insulting because the only reason they are calling is because they have to go down farther on their lists."
"In a couple cases, we had players committed for over a month, and a couple of schools came in and tried to dissuade them," Mackovic said. "To me, I think that's out of line."
Arizona lost out on some recruits, most notably Elliot Vallejo to UCLA and David Gray to Cal. Gray ended up going to hometown Cal after the coaching change. While many can understand that reasoning, it was how the new Cal staff approached the Wildcat receiver prospect that irked many. While Mackovic did not mention specific names, he did address the situation.
"If a coach gets a job on January 1st, and a player makes a decision on December 18th, and that coach doesn't show up until January 18th or 23rd, and the player (lives) 10 minutes away, yeah," Mackovic said when asked about new coaching staffs coming in late in recruiting. "That would be like me coming in here last year and not talking to a player at a local high school for a month." There are a couple of schools in this conference that did that this year, and I find it regrettable."
Coaches don't like it, but is it illegal? The answer is a resounding, maybe.
"It borders on being unethical, and I'd like to see our coaches association take a position on that," Mackovic said.
"I'm not whining," Neuheisel said in regards to the crazy year of recruiting. "I just want to know the rules. I'm anxious to play."
Well according to the Pac-10 Handbook's section on recruiting, these actions may just be illegal.
The handbook states that "(3) Statements of a speculative nature (e.g., speculation about the outcome of an NCAA investigation or a coach's continued employment)," are "specifically prohibited."
I think telling a player that his future coach is going to the pro ranks or going to another school is "speculative."
The big problem is that the enforcement of the rules in the handbook is hazy. The guidelines have no set penalties, but instead call for, "violations of the Conference's Recruiting Code of Ethics shall, for the most part, be processed through informal discussions between the appropriate parties (e.g., head coach-to-head coach, athletics director-to-athletics director)." That's like bypassing the principal and having two parents settle a schoolyard dispute.
I'm a notorious nice guy. So maybe I'm not the one to create a code of conduct. I'd back off a young man who gave his word to another institution. I'd probably lose a lot of recruits. It is clear though that something must be done. You know it is bad when Mackovic, a veteran of the old South West Conference recruiting wars said, "this is as bad as I've seen."