Saturday, September 11, 2010

Tighter NCAA Enforcement Is Good News For IU’s Crean

The Bruce Pearl mess could be good news for Indiana’s Tom Crean.

Why? Because it’s a sign that universities and the NCAA are getting more serious about all the shady stuff going on in recruiting. For coaches who do it right, and if you know Crean, you KNOW he does it right, this is a good thing.

That means that someday Crean MIGHT be able to recruit on an even playing field. “Might,” of course, is a fluid term considering some coaches and programs will always push the limits beyond what is allowed.

According to reports, Pearl lied to NCAA investigators looking into possible phone call issues involving his Tennessee basketball program. He felt guilty about it and, after a few days, told the truth. Supposedly he lied about minor stuff, although that will come out once the NCAA is finished with its investigation.

In the meantime, Pearl lost $1.5 million of his mega-million-dollar contract (it reportedly averages $2.3 million a year through 2015). Plus, another $500,000 retention bonus also is in jeopardy.

Sure, losing $2 million is a big hit, but it’s not like he’s going to have to live in a van down by the river eating fast food leftovers. The guy will still make $1.4million this year instead of $1.9 million.

Unless Pearl has been investing millions in, say, a time machine, he’s probably in good shape financially. Losing $2 million to him is probably like the average person losing $2,000.

It’s a pain, but not devastating.

His assistant coaches also took financial hits. Pearl and his assistants will have off-campus recruiting restrictions lasting as long as a year. And this is just penalties imposed by Tennessee in an effort to ward off bigger sanctions by the NCAA. IU tried that with former coach Kelvin Sampson and still got hit with more penalties that the basketball program continues to recover from.

Rule breaking goes on and coaches hear about it. They know it’s happening, but knowing isn’t proving. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has gone public with his concerns about the problem, which reflects the feelings of many coaches in the Big Ten and other conferences.

“I don’t think there’s a coach in this country who isn’t concerned,” Crean said. “You could probably go to football with Bill Lynch or Tracy Smith in baseball or Felisha (Legette-Jack) in women’s basketball and hear the same thing.”

Crean said he thinks the NCAA enforcement staff is doing a better job of attacking the problem. Investigators are being more aggressive in checking out elite recruits and elite recruiting, the phone calls they get, the agents and runners they’re involved with, and everything else. Frustrated coaches are being more cooperative and less inclined to follow the good-old-boy, don’t-rat-out-your-fellow-coaches approach.

In recent years the NCAA has come down hard on IU basketball, USC football and Baylor basketball. It’s investigating Connecticut basketball. And a bunch of SEC football programs are facing player-agent problems.

The Pearl issue, just as it was with Sampson, involved phone calls. Specifically, the number of calls coaches can make each week to recruits. Coaches have their home phones and university cell phones. They have to fill out phone logs recording all the calls they made to recruits. That way the compliance department knows what's going on and everyone can stay within the rules.

However, some coaches get other phones, pay-as-you-go phones, that don’t require contracts or anything that could trace the calls to them. They use those phones to make extra calls in violation of NCAA rules. They don't record them on phone logs. Unless investigators can get the phone records of recruits, they’ll have no way to know how much of that is going on.

Still, better-informed investigators can ask better questions, putting more pressure on those coaches flouting the rules. Even if the coaches don’t get caught, the risk of getting caught has increased, which can help reduce the problem.

“There’s an awareness out there (with the NCAA enforcement staff) and I don’t know if I felt it the last couple of years, but it’s there now,” Crean said. “What does that mean? Who knows? We all have our opinions about what we think goes on. We work in an incredibly competitive environment where we’re going against super-competitive people. It’s all about what’s relevant to us, and what’s relevant to us is we want to fight tooth and nail to get the program back to where it has to be, and trust the people in charge of enforcing the rules that they are doing as much as they can with as much backing as they can get.”

Here’s the bottom line -- for those doing the right thing the right way, tighter enforcement is a huge plus. For those cheating, it’s a big problem.

1 comment:

  1. Don't forget that the NCAA is currently investigating North Carolina's football program too. And Roy Williams has been quoted as saying that there is no way of insuring the investigation could not touch other programs at North Carolina.