Monday, August 22, 2011

Memphis, Josh Pastner avoid a violation

Josh Pastner and the Memphis Tigers sidestepped a recruiting violation over the weekend.

You see, while a longshot, Memphis is still in the mix for the Class of 2012's No. 1 recruit Shabazz Muhammad. But according to an interview with the Duke website Devil's Illustrated from the summer of 2010, Memphis was "calling and calling and calling" Muhammad. Since it was before the start of Muhammad's senior season, Memphis should have only been allowed to call Muhammad or his family once a month. Kyle Veazey of the Commercial Appeal explains:

Muhammad's claim that the Tigers were "calling and calling and calling" prompted a question from the NCAA's Basketball Focus Group, an arm of the enforcement division formed in 2008 to gather information and explore potential violations in the sport.


The U of M's most significant response to the BFG came in an Oct. 28, 2010, letter. In it, the school acknowledged its staff had made multiple calls to Muhammad's father, Ron Holmes. But since Holmes is a high school and AAU coach, the U of M says, the calls were permitted under a pair of two-decade-old interpretations of NCAA rules that allow calls to coaches who are parents if the calls are about evaluations and not soliciting the son to sign with the school.

The U of M said its staff wasn't talking to Holmes about Muhammad but about other prospects or topics.
Once again, we are given a glimpse of the inanity of the contact rules in college basketball. Memphis is quite obviously -- or was, at the time -- pursuing Muhammad. But since his dad is a basketball coach in the high school ranks, the Tigers (as well as any other team smart enough to find that loophole) had a way around that one-call-per-month rule.

The fact that Pastner was able to find that loophole before anyone else is a major part of the reason that he has proven to be a quality recruiter throughout his career as a coach. But the fact that such loophole's exist is a major part of the problem when it comes to the NCAA's rulebook. That rulebook is 434 pages long. There are thousands more rule interpretations that can be found in the NCAA's LSDBi database. The complexity of the NCAA's by-laws breeds the quirky loopholes that coaches have been exploiting for so long.

The arguments for changing the way the NCAA currently regulates contacting potential student-athletes have been so exhaustively written about, it feels silly to rehash them. But I will. Everyone has caller ID and no one has a problem with allowing a call to go to voicemail if you don't want to talk to that person. Everyone has unlimited texting plans. With smartphones that have email, facebook and twitter, there is no practical difference between a text message (which are limited by the NCAA) and an email, facebook message or direct message on twitter (which are not).

And the kids that are being recruited -- the 16 and 17 year olds on the cutting edge of technology -- are going to be the best at using these social networking tools. They can ignore a phone call with the best of them.

Hopefully, the NCAA follows through on their proposed changes to the deregulation of recruits communicating with coaches. (UPDATE: As Dan Wolken pointed out to me on twitter, in investigating these phone calls, the NCAA proved they didn't even know their own rule.)

Memphis also had to answer questions about how they were able to get Muhammad and current Minnesota forward Trevor Mbakwe on campus for unofficial visits, but no violations were found in either of those instances.

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