DECKER: IU Playing By the Rules With Gordon

While the Illinois-Indiana tug-of-war over Eric Gordon has become one of the most talked about subjects with the Recruiting Class of '07, what's unfolded in recent weeks is nothing new in the game of college recruiting.

Eric Gordon gets a one-day reprieve from interested Indiana on-lookers.

That's because later this afternoon all eyes will be on Valparaiso H.S., where Robbie Hummel is expected to announce whether he'll play his college basketball at Indiana or Purdue. Indiana is hoping to get its first verbal for the '07 class, while Purdue has visions of securing its third pledge from an in-state, top-100 player.

But once Hummel makes his decision known – and most expect him to call West Lafayette home – interest in the Gordon situation will ratchet up even more.

A quick recap – a top-10 player and a can't miss college prospect by everyone's estimation, the 6-3, 185-pound Gordon verbally committed to Illinois Coach Bruce Weber last spring. Among the reasons the Indianapolis North Central H.S. standout bypassed the homestate Hoosiers was the uncertain future of Coach Mike Davis, who was on the hot seat after back-to-back NCAA Tournament-less seasons.

But times have since changed. Davis is out in Bloomington and Kelvin Sampson is in, flanked by assistant coach Jeff Meyer. The college head coach of Gordon's father, Eric Sr., Meyer has made a strong push to get Gordon to re-consider his commitment, and the Gordons are listening.

While Gordon has publicly said he remains committed to Illinois, he's admitted he's taking a second look at Indiana as well. That has Illinois fans in an uproar and Illinois Coach Bruce Weber crying foul.

"In my mind it's one of our problems as coaches – I think it's unethical to keep going after a kid once he's committed," Weber told the Chicago Tribune last week.

While Sampson hasn't publicly addressed the Gordon issue, his stance is pretty clear. Gordon had pledged to the Illini while he was still coaching Oklahoma, and he'd have been remiss to not at least inquire if Gordon would be interested in revisiting IU as a potential college destination once he took over in April.

From there, it's a guessing game as to what's played out. Other than the Gordons, no one knows how receptive they were to IU's early overtures. Other than the parties involved, in fact, no one knows for sure if it was Indiana or Gordon who even initiated contact.

Now, some might insist IU should have told Gordon they wouldn't recruit him unless he was willing to tell the Illinois staff he was going to re-open his recruitment. That hasn't happened, which has helped make the Gordon saga one of the most talked-about stories in recruiting circles.

Despite the fact Eric Sr. told the Chicago Tribune last week that six schools made contact with him to see how firm his son's pledge was to the Illini, it's been Indiana and Sampson that have had their actions called into question. Some have suggested there's an unwritten rule in the conference that coaches won't attempt to lure verbal commits from fellow Big Ten coaches – a rather strange claim, as if ethical conduct need only stretch only as far west as Iowa City and as far east as Happy Valley.

Ultimately, fans and coaches alike will have to accept the fact that so long as verbal commitments aren't binding, these type of scenarios will continue to play out. Some may not like it – and right now, Illinois fans most certainly don't - but it's part of the way the recruiting game is played more often than you'd think.

While the Gordon situation has grabbed national recruiting headlines, these type of situations play out all the time – within the Big Ten and outside of it.

Look at football. A year ago, Penn State pulled out all the stops to try to get soon-to-be IU freshman Matt Mayberry to State College, Penn., including an in-home visit from Joe Paterno after Mayberry had already donned an IU cap at a September press conference. After a solid performance in a postseason All-Star game, offensive lineman Cody Faulkner had coaches from LSU, Tennessee, Arkansas and Alabama asking him if he'd be willing to re-consider his IU pledge.

This isn't a new phenomenon. Three years ago, Wisconsin managed to wrestle Allen Langford away Indiana after he'd verbally committed to Gerry DiNardo's staff. A year later, Ohio State came in late and offered a scholarship to James Bailey after the Detroit wideout had pledged to the Hoosiers, and Wisconsin did the same with Nick Polk.

As unsavory as it might seem on the surface, it's part of the way the recruiting game is played. Always has been, and always will be so long as the rules are the way they are.

Kelvin Sampson didn't write the rules – he's just playing by them.

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