The NCAA: Futility at it's finest

I have taken this record off of the turntable. I have bent it, drowned it and even lit it on fire. I have ran it over with my car and broken it into as many pieces as possible. Darn the NCAA though for always picking it up, putting it back together and playing it one more time. One more time we take a spin around the merry go round that is the NCAA levying rules to create parity that ultimately create confusion. And there ya go, that's the NCAA.

Before I go into this, the main point of rules is that it's supposed to regulate persons or organizations into operating within what is considered "acceptable" parameters. If you don't, there are penalties that will be duly enforced.

There's the first problem with the NCAA. Whether it's Albert Mean at Alabama, the tutoring scandal at Tennessee or just the times that I have lost count of that the NCAA has dubbed a program having a "lack of institutional control", you hear about all these serious rules being broke, but where are the serious penalties?

How many times was Oklahoma busted for recruiting violations? How many times was Alabama cited or reprimanded for how they wooed the best preps around? Michigan pays it's basketball players, Ohio State apparently holds basket weaving as their main qualification to play football and after it's all said and done.................what?

Since the NCAA levied the death penalty on SMU, it's been a series of hand-slaps to some of the biggest schools around. Apparently not wanting to destroy the local economies of prominent Universities, the powers that be have shown themselves to be more powers that "could be", but never really are.

And, it's gotten so ridiculous that instead of enforcing the rules they have, the NCAA just passes more rules instead.

Consistent to that, the NCAA Management Council has come up with a package of proposals to address the growing problem in collegiate recruiting. The problem of course being that the NCAA apparently feels that the "big boys" with their big recruiting budgets are taking away the parity that they have tried so hard to maintain.

A few of these measures include getting rid of the private jets, taking away the special meals and eliminating any special housing that might not be available to the average student.

In addition, while on their official visits, recruits can't be carted around in any particularly special vehicles, can't be entertained by scoreboard displays that have their name shining brightly and there's going to be no more personalized jerseys hanging in the locker rooms because that school wants to make them feel at home.

Basically it's getting rid of the "dog and pony" show.

Hmmm, how can I put this?


Far be it for me to assume that I know more than the NCAA or to even fathom that they might have missed something on their way to the "let's make a new rule that we can ignore" booth, but if this isn't one of the most self-defeating proposals I have ever heard, I honestly don't know what is.

Get rid of the dog and pony shows? You think that's going to create parity?

It will do exactly the opposite.

Let me explain:

Ok, I am a big-time University with a big-time tradition and I have walls adorned with trophies and plaques. You get rid of me giving these recruits "special" treatment, ok, no biggie.

I still have all these trophies and plaques.

Ok, now I am Rutgers. I don't have any trophies and barely any plaques and you just took the only thing away that I had to use as a tool to show recruits I care. You just took away the only way that we know we can keep our name in their mind as they are visiting these big schools with all their trophies and plaques.

I didn't use Rutgers off of a whim either as they have one of the best dog and pony shows going. The entrance into the stadium - the music blaring and then the recruit's name being announced while that recruit runs out. A trip to ESPN Zone to see their highlights on a board with an announcer talking about them as if they had just made national TV.

That's something and who cares if it's Rutgers, they went to helluva lot of trouble to show this recruit just how much they mean to them.

For some, it's all they have and now the NCAA wants to take that away?

That isn't parity, it's lunacy. But, in the grand tradition of the NCAA, it's infuriatingly consistent.

You think the Florida States, Miamis, Nebraskas and Ohio States of the world will even wince at something like this? Of course not. They are still Florida State, Miami, Nebraska and Ohio State. What's it to them if only having to adjust the "tour" a little bit?

There's another issue here that's bugging me as well.

Mail. Yes, that's right, mail.

Right now the University of Virginia is sitting on 19 commits. That's an astronomical amount at this point of the season. That also means that none of these kids committed as a result of anything they saw on one of them dog and pony shows.

And you want to know what the biggest reason for their success is outside of the fact that it's fine University and they have quality coaches that know how to recruit?

Mail and lots of it. Brochures describing the school, media guides letting the recruit know anything and everything about UVA and lots and lots of letters. Mostly, the handwritten kind. Handwritten from each and every coach, day after day after day.

What's the NCAA going to do about this? Rutgers isn't getting any of these recruits? Maybe Virginia's budget should be narrowed so that they can't afford stamps or can't get special discounts with FedEx.

There's an inherent problem with trying to assume that all young kids are materialistic first in their criteria in choosing schools. Believe it or not, some actually do care about the education of a system and if that team has a tradition of winning or not.

I have never and I'll repeat NEVER heard of any recruit telling me that they committed to a school because of a jersey with their name on it, a trip in a really nice vehicle they took or the fact that they had Ribeye at Ohio State while Kentucky served goulash instead.

Leave it to the NCAA though to assume that if you take the money out of the equation, all of a sudden everyone is equal.

I think we need to give recruits a little more respect than that.

It would be unfair not to note some of the changes the NCAA is proposing that actually might do some good.

Institutions would have to develop written policies regarding recruiting that must be approved by the Chancellor or President of the University. These rules would have to have language contained therein that addressed Alcohol, drugs or anything else to that effect that might be used as a tool to recruit.

The institution will be allowed to pay the cost of travel for a parent, something that the current bylaws state isn't allowed


With those two proposals, the benefits are obvious in that every institution really should have their policies on paper so that in the case of a dispute on either side, the guidelines are there as a reference and in some cases, a guide.

For the second, that's a long time in coming as the parent should be involved in the recruiting of their child, but many parents simply can't afford to make the trip with their child to see all of the possible schools being considered.

That's the good, but we see that the bad is even more bad than the good is good. Again though, that's pretty consistent with the NCAA.

Hey, I have an idea. Instead of assuming (as always) that the disparity in revenue for programs is at the root of this issue, look at the issue itself?

The issue here is why the more prominent recruits go to the more prominent schools in the country. Tradition is big and so are facilities. Bowl game consistency is good and so is national TV coverage. The support of the football program itself is also a major consideration - fans and the type of following a school has usually a pretty serious consideration for the best preps around the country.

The solution? That's easy.


Wipe all of the win/loss records of every team in the country. That way there is no tradition and no history of any titles a program might have won.

Don't allow any "major" schools to build additional facilities until all of the non-major schools can build theirs first.

Bring the total of Bowl games up to 57 or so, that way everyone plays in the post-season.

Make everyone watch "Heidi" three times on Saturdays in the Fall.

Get rid of the fans.

Sounds asinine and point of fact, it is, but welcome to the NCAA. It's not the motives I question here, but some of the logic behind some of these measures intended to help.

It might get so bad that if the University of Buffalo can't recruit because they don't have enough trees on their campus, the NCAA will make Florida State, Miami, Nebraska, etc. cut down all their threes or enough so that everyone will think that Buffalo and those guys are on an even playing field.

They aren't and won't be, but it's not because of a Jersey, it's because most of these kids want to win. They want to play for teams that win or programs heading into the direction that says they might or at least more times than they lose.

Will the NCAA then regulate that? "Uhh, Mr. head of USC, I'm afraid you are going to have to lose your next three games, because Baylor just isn't having any luck in winning recruiting battles against you.".

The old saying about the ends not justifying the means can find little illustration better than some of these measures that will be proposed soon. In a society that demands everything and everyone at least have the perception of equality, the NCAA is doing it's best to say they are doing it, but then having their actions speak a decidedly different message.

You want to know ultimately wins recruiting battles in the end? People. Coaches, methodologies that are such that a recruit assumes that must be the place for them. Relationships built, familiarity gained and a trust between recruiter and recruitee established. That's what means more to recruits than anything else in the end. And, you simply can't create parity there.

But, I wouldn't put it beyond the NCAA to try.

Steve Ryan can be reached at or 402-730-5619

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