NCAA: The most stupefying entity on Earth?

WE INTERRUPT your regularly scheduled Cougar fall camp programming to bring you a story beyond belief. What organization - besides the NCAA - would make it legal for a school to entice a recruit with the promise of $60,000 cold hard cash, and make it illegal to give the same recruit a cookie cake with an iced decoration?

It turns out the story is just that – unbelievable. The Associated Press reported this week that among South Carolina’s 22 self-reported violations this past year, there was this beauty: "impermissible iced decorations on cookie cakes given to prospects."

The NCAA, surely knowing how foolish that made them look, moved at lightning speed to talk with the Gamecoks and the SEC to rapidly get word out that all three were in agreement -- it was not a violation.


Meanwhile, Florida State will reportedly pay Heisman-trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston $60,000 to play football this season. And that is a true story, and Mark Emmert and the NCAA are all for it.

FSU is following the lead of Texas A&M, who gave $50,000-plus to offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi to return to College Station this season instead of entering the NFL draft.

It turns out FSU and A&M are able to throw such cash at players because the NCAA allows schools to use the Student Assistance Fund to, among other things, pay for insurance policies for student-athletes. The assistance fund was capped by the NCAA at $350,000 per school last year according to Fox Sports.

Winston wasn’t given the outlay this season because FSU wanted to keep him from going pro - Winston won't be eligible for the draft until after FSU's 2014-15 campaign. And sure, other big-time players on the Seminoles and elsewhere are soon going to ask why they're not getting a bunch of cabbage too.

But of more import is that out on the recruiting trail, college coaches will be (if they're not already) trying to entice 5-star prospects to come play for them and promising tens of thousands of dollars for use in insurance policies in order to do so. Other schools will find out (if they haven't already) that if they're not also making those cash offers, they're going to lose recruits to the competition.

At $50,000 a pop, a school can theoretically make offers to seven recruits, more than 25 percent of their signing class. It’s probably more realistic for schools to use it on 1-3 prospects, so they have some left over for the things the fund was originally designed for -- like financial hardship. But it's also not hard to see a coach asking the school for a big chunk of funds, just for one year, so he can win the battle on, say, five difference-making recruits.

The fund was created in 1991, for student-athletes who couldn’t afford a trip home, had enough clothing, or needed help with utility bills and the like.

But that was 1991. Last year, Maryland used the fund to to buy all of its student-athletes iPads .

In related news, after the NCAA came to the decision special frosting on cookie cakes is not actually a violation, four out of five dentists are no longer recommending the NCAA. The fifth just quit the dental profession to join the insurance industry.

So how to bring the scales back into balance and prevent recruiting/retention largesse for the very few? Well, place a percentage on how much one student-athlete can draw from the fund, say two percent, or $7,000 of $350,000. That would in turn enable those among the hundreds of student-athletes at a school -- who truly need the assistance because of financial hardship -- to get it. But it’s the NCAA, so that won’t happen. Indeed, the NCAA has said the Student Assistance Fund will simply continue to grow at a rapid rate. Because why wouldn’t you want to make what goes on in recruiting even more ridiculous than it already is. You’re welcome, America. Love, The NCAA.

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