When Russell and Breske worry, you should too

IN A CAREER that has taken him from the Sun Belt Conference to the WAC, the Big 12 to the SEC, and most recently the Pac-12, Washington State assistant head football coach Eric Russell has seen just about everything the college game can dish up. But when he looks to this summer, when the NCAA plans to loosen restrictions on recruiting, this seasoned veteran sees trouble.

"Unlimited calling and texting," he said plaintively and with a shake of the head last week at A Night with Cougar Football in Seattle.

His body language said all that needed to be spoken.

And that's just a portion of what the NCAA has in store, he told Cougfan.com.

Indeed, a process that already burns hot 365 days a year and has resulted in scholarship offers being extended to kids as young as 13 and 14, is about to be turned on its head.

The NCAA Board of Directors last month passed a series of measures deemed necessary to streamline the rules and regulations around recruiting.

WSU defensive coordinator Mike Breske, who also was in Seattle for the dinner last week, says the budget and staffing implications of the NCAA's plan are downright chilling. He said he envisions schools with deep pockets hiring droves of new staffers to put a marketing blanket over the recruiting landscape.


Here's why.

Three of the 25 provisions approved by the NCAA board effectively will light the fuse on a promotional arms race that tilts the recruiting playing field inextricably toward the richest programs ...

  • No limits on the number of employees that can be engaged in the recruiting process;
  • No limits of any kind on the amount of phoning, texting, emailing or mailing with prospects, starting in the athlete's junior year of high school;
  • No limits on printed recruiting materials, videos, audios and more.

    Breske said it doesn't take much imagination to forecast revenue-rich schools filling rooms with non-coaching personnel who are dedicated to nothing but the wooing of prospective athletes.

    Asked how to keep up if you're not one of the deep pockets, Breske was succinct: "Good question."

    In 1961, Dwight Eisenhower warned of the military industrial complex.

    Welcome to the recruiting industrial complex, 2013.

    That extra $3 million per school that will result when the Pac-12 and DirecTV finally come to their senses won't be going to toward facilities or scholarships. Nope. It'll be aimed at trying to keep pace with the marketing machines that will no doubt be launched in Los Angeles, Eugene, Columbus, Austin, Baton Rouge and Tuscaloosa.

    School with the cheapest alums loses!

    Georgia's athletic director, Greg McGarity, told the New York Times the other day that he called a meeting of his coaches last month to discuss deregulation. He gave them 15 minutes to generate ideas of what they'd like to do once constraints were lifted.

    "It was an immediate red flag," he told the Times.

    The list of ideas his people came up with totaled 35 items and included such things as 200-page, four-color brochures, fathead posters made in the likenesses of recruits, and videos of recruits in Georgia uniforms.

    "Think about if we gave them a few months to come up with things," McGarity said.

    "Some school is going to want to get on the high dive with this and go all in and spend and spend," he added. "It is going to start a round of competition among schools that is going to be limitless."

    While the NCAA calls its move streamlining, the true result, when taken to its logical conclusion, is that PR firms and advertising agencies are going to be fattening their bottom lines as schools race to out-communicate each other.

    Paging Don Draper.

    Imagine the fun Phil Knight and Nike would have helping the Ducks out-sizzle the world.

    Big Ten ADs and coaches recently issued a statement of concern about the NCAA's plan, and McGarity is spearheading efforts in the SEC to denounce the changes. The Pac-12, Big 12 and ACC have not weighed in publicly.

    According to the Times, an override of the NCAA's proposal can begin if 75 Division I presidents vote before March 20 to start that process.

    When two veteran coaches like Russell and Breske come to town to celebrate the outstanding new class of ballplayers they helped put together, but wind up steering the conversation toward concerns about the future of recruiting, you know the issue is serious.

    For Cougar fans who have heretofore ignored Bill Moos' pleas about putting some financial "skin the game," prepare to get a truly hard sell if the NCAA's streamlining goes unchecked. And for those who have heeded Moos' call, you may want to think about putting an extra zero on the end of the next check.

    Here's to hoping common sense, and at least 75 D-I presidents, can prevail.

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