Do or do not…there is no try

14 Jul


By Justin Young
National Hoops Report

I was turned away from a country club one time because I didn’t have the proper kind of button down shirt. I had a three-button polo shirt on but the club required full button down shirts to be worn after 6 p.m.

I laughed at the rule, turned around and walked out of the land of pretentiousness and never returned.

Country clubs are funny. I understand the purpose and the club has every right to stand true to its rules and enforce its somewhat silly moral code. I just choose not to be apart of that line of thinking.

I can go to the grocery store in my three button polo shirt. I can go jogging in that shirt. I can yell and heckle referees at a local high school game. All of that is legal. It is my choice and my decision to do those things. I don’t have an entity telling me what I can and cannot do.

Why? Because I live in friggin’ America. That’s why.

That’s what the NCAA tends to forgot at places like the Peach Jam and other July events where prospective college athletes are playing in front of coaches that participate under the iron umbrella of the NCAA.

The NCAA is like that country club that requires a full button down shirt after 6 p.m. Arrogant and unfounded but, like the rest of us, they have the right to set up their own rules whether they make sense or not.

Matt Norlander of CBS is at the Nike Peach Jam for the first time and wrote an interesting piece on his perspective from the event. He’s experiencing what I’ve experienced for the last 10 years.

As for the NCAA’s patrol men and women (it’s mostly, if not all, women here), they’re doing the best they can, though they’re in the wrong spots. Policing the gyms is an easy task. It seems the enforcers have their familiar faces they make conversation with (I saw one high-profile coach gab a laughing NCAA employer off for nearly 45 minutes Tuesday), but they’re not getting much done. NCAA staff sitting inside the gym is akin to a cop staking out a 7 Eleven in hopes of curing the town’s crime issues. You’re in the wrong spot, sir or ma’am.

The enforcers can’t realistically keep the street agents out of the gyms. But to curb any potential illegal behavior from coaches, the NCAA’s slew of onlookers should be anywhere but inside. Hang around the parking lot, be in the hotel lobbies and bars and mezzanines. That’s where the few in-person deals are getting done by those brave and brazen enough to run afoul of the NCAA right under its nose.

Runners aren’t as prevalent as you tend to think. College coaches don’t want runners to end. They may say they do, but they can’t cut their ties with agents. The fact of the matter is, agents help coaches. Now, I’m not saying every school employs this tactic in recruiting. But it happens.

When I was a national writer for Rivals.com and Yahoo! Sports I never had a NCAA member call me regarding any potential issues. That always struck me as interesting. I saw plenty. I knew plenty.

Was it just me? Maybe they didn’t call me simply because they didn’t really know me. Maybe that was it.

So I asked around. A half dozen or so of my friends that cover recruiting year round said the same thing. The NCAA never approached any of us. Ever.

The worst I ever saw was in the hotel lobby of the old ABCD camp in New Jersey. It was a networking social of agents, runners, AAU coaches, parents, players and shoe officials. Friends introducing friends to new friends. Breaking bread at its finest.

If the NCAA really cares about any of this, they will do more than just showing up to events like the Peach Jam and watching where people sit and monitoring college coaches from interacting with star-crazy teenage kids looking for autographs.

If the NCAA really cares about cleaning up the game, they should probably leave the bars they go to a night and play police like they perceive themselves to be by going out to the hotels where teams are staying. Or spend some time in the casinos in Las Vegas. Or talk to those that know things.

They don’t.

I remember covering an event three years ago in the metro Atlanta area. I was there to help a friend out with coverage. I knew the event would be short on talent. I also knew the event would be short of college coaches. Two Division I schools came by, took a look around and left. The talent wasn’t there.

But the NCAA was.

I approached the NCAA police man. Nice guy, very smart and very well credentialed. He was a lawyer by degree and very pleasant to talk to.

I asked him point blank: “Why exactly are you here when there is the LeBron event, the big adidas tournament and several other major events happening?”

“This is where the NCAA wanted me to be,” he said.

It turns out the NCAA was concerned with my friend, the event organizer and wanted to babysit the event. Um, okay.

The NCAA investigator began to pepper me with questions after he realized I was transparent. He simply didn’t understand the grassroots world. He didn’t understand how teams where made. He didn’t understand, in essence, why he was there, too.

Like I said, he seemed like a smart guy.

It doesn’t sound like the NCAA is even out that strong this year.

http://twitter.com/#!/DaveTelep/status/89841472530157569

Norlander wrote: “But to curb any potential illegal behavior from coaches, the NCAA’s slew of onlookers should be anywhere but inside.”

What exactly is illegal in accordance to the laws of the governing body of the United States? Not a god damn thing. The NCAA helps build the perception that breaking their rules are indeed illegal. No they aren’t. They are three-button polos after 6 p.m.

Norlander closed his piece out strong and on point:

There’s never going to be enough manpower from the NCAA to scrub clean these events. There’s no motivation from other parties to get it that way. We’ve got an odd-bedfellows situation going on, and the NCAA is helpless to stop it.

Bend the rules and loopholes at these events, pick your couriers carefully, and nobody will tell on you. That’s the code coaches of every distinction and the minions attached to them abide by. With the way this event is policed, you’d have a right to be cynical and think the NCAA is compliant in it as well by the way its resigned to accept the state of affairs. But I can’t fault them for trying. From a recruiting corruption standpoint, events like the Peach Jam are too big to fail for the teams and shoe companies involved. You can’t kill what you can’t see, even if you know it’s there.

The NCAA wants to police July. They can’t. They never will be able to simply because they can’t, as Norlander wrote, do anything about it. The NCAA can police its members – the college coaches. They can’t police anyone else.

Why? Because this is friggin’ America. That’s why.

Welcome to July, folks.

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