Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What’s Up With IU’s NCAA Violation, Harris and Calipari

Here’s the biggest thing about the lastest Indiana basketball drama that includes Tom Crean’s secondary NCAA violation and Maurice Creek’s torn Achilles tendon that should keep Hoosier fans up at night:

John Calipari is in the Gary Harris mix.

Oh, no!

If you’re Crean, Purdue’s Matt Painter or Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, it’s time to sweat. All three have busted their tails to land Harris, a standout shooting guard from Hamilton Southeastern who is so tough he plays football as a receiver. Now Calipari rolls in near the end and look out. Like him or not, Calipari is a great recruiter. He was great when he was at Massachusetts and Memphis, and now that he’s at powerhouse Kentucky, well, it’s almost not fair.

Just ask Louisville's Rick Pitino.

The word is Calipari was at one of Harris’ recent football practices and he wasn’t there just to work on his tan.

Still, IU has a great chance to land Harris, one of the nation’s top players in the Class of 2012. Harris is coming to Bloomington this weekend for an official visit and will attend Saturday’s Hoosier Hysteria, an event that was moved from Friday just to accommodate him because his Friday nights are tied up with football games. It's the last real chance to impress him, and figure IU will, although whether it's enough to make a difference only Harris will know.

This is a fierce recruiting battle, which is why none of the participating programs can afford to screw up. That’s what makes Crean’s secondary violation for reportedly visiting Harris after the contact period so odd. It’s no you-blew-it screw-up, but it's still odd.

IU calls it a mistake and it has to be. Assistant coach Tim Buckley messed up and incorrectly told Crean that the last day of the fall contact period was last Thursday. So Crean used that day to see Harris. In fact, Wednesday was the last day. Thursday was the first day of the evaluation period, when contact is not permitted.

Based on IU’s official release and report to the NCAA, Buckley realized his mistake on Thursday while talking to another coach. He quickly told Crean –- after Crean had already visited Harris. Both coaches immediately reported the violation to the school’s compliance office, which then reported it to the Big Ten and the NCAA. Hoosier officials penalized the program by cutting two days from the 130 recruiting person days it has for this academic year (130 to 128) and forfeited one contact of the three contact days it’s allowed with Harris. Buckley was given a letter of admonishment for incorrectly advising Crean.

What does this mean in the big picture? Nothing. Schools commit secondary violations all the time. People make mistakes, particularly when there are a gazzilion rules to follow. The NCAA is unlikely to add to the self-imposed sanctions.

In addition, the NCAA has said as part of its new way of doing things, it’s only going to worry about the big stuff, like paying off recruits. Small stuff is no longer a concern, as long as it doesn’t reflect a pattern of behavior, such as Kelvin Sampson’s excessive impermissible phone calls.

Oh, by the way. The NCAA no longer worries about impermissible phone calls.

So while you’d think coaches would know when contact periods begin and end (it’s easy to mark on calendars), they sometimes mess up. It seems beyond belief that Crean and Buckley would deliberately break a rule –- especially given what IU already has gone through the last couple of years -- because they were so focused on doing everything to get Harris, who is very good, but who is not the second coming of Michael Jordan. Only a desperate program would do that and with the nation's No. 1 class for 2012, the Hoosiers are a million miles away from being desperate. Even if they don't get Harris, they have all the recruiting pieces for big-time success.

Still, it adds drama to what's been a tough week for the Hoosiers. But then, there's always drama around IU basketball. It's part of what makes it so intriguing.

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