- The Washington Times - Friday, June 21, 2002

A basketball coach is not allowed to ferry a recruit by helicopter.
The said coach is not allowed to entice the recruit with other peculiar inducements, such as: no rock bands to trumpet the prospect's arrival, no keepsake photograph of a visit to campus, no bumper stickers, buttons or posters, and, of course, no bags of money.
There is no provision, as yet, that precludes a coach from swaying a recruit with a ride on the space shuttle.
But give the suits in Indianapolis time. They have a million of them. It works out to 43 pages of rules, in mind-numbing detail, on the NCAA's Web site, www.ncaa.org.
"You'd be surprised at just how many things there are rules about," said Cathy Wilson, an assistant women's basketball coach at George Washington.
No doubt.
Consider Rule 13.4.1 (h), which regulates the number of colors that are allowed on the inside cover of any media guide or brochure a school provides to a prospect (one).
Or Rule 13.4.1 (k), which governs the number of pocket schedules a school may send to a recruit (likewise, one).
Or try Rule it's a mouthful: "A prospect may tour an institution's athletics hall of fame or museum during a recruiting trip and view videotapes/films or listen to audiotapes related to the institution's athletics programs (even if such videotapes/films/audiotapes do not meet the definition of a highlight film), provided the facility is open to the general public on a year-round basis and the videotape/film/audiotape has been developed for the purpose of showing to the general public (as opposed to the recruitment of prospects)."
No one ever accused the NCAA of being Ernest Hemingway.
The NCAA takes a particularly strong interest in telephone calls: There are more than 25 rules that determine what a phone call is, who may place and receive them, and when.
For the record, a fax sent to a prospect is not considered to be a phone call, but an electronic instant message is, according to Rule 13.02.12. A message sent via a pager does not constitute a phone call unless the message displayed is "in excess of a greeting."
If contact with a recruit is face-to-face and in a foreign language the NCAA has it covered.
Rule (f) requires that an interpreter be a professional or a faculty member, not a student-athlete. Or a relative of a student-athlete. Or a member of the athletic department.
"I've definitely said several times, 'I can't believe that. That's ridiculous,'" Wilson said. "On the other hand, I understand why they have the rules."
The NCAA says that it outlines all of its rules with two ideals in mind: the well-being of the student-athlete and competitive balance between its member schools. That is small consolation to those who must negotiate the regulatory minefield.
"When you start [coaching], you don't understand which rules are which, and you have to check [the manual] almost daily," said George Mason assistant coach Bill Courtney. " It's on a need-to-know basis, so after awhile, you know the basic rules. But you still need refreshers."
Coaches are allowed to call recruits a maximum of one time per week beginning July1 after their junior year but can write them as much as they want. E-mail and faxes are considered written correspondence and therefore unlimited, but instant messaging is considered a phone call. If a coach leaves a message on the answering machine, it's not considered a call. A recruit, however, can call a coach as much as he or she chooses.
There is a dizzying array of rules governing coach-to-player interaction, contact periods (when a coach can make off-campus visits and evaluations), quiet periods (when a recruit can only make on-campus visits), letter-of-intent programs and publicity.
That's why coaches, even after receiving a recruiting handbook from the NCAA before every academic year, must rely heavily on the information available through the compliance departments at their schools. There, they can get clarifications, questions answered and make sure they're in the clear before proceeding with a phone call or other means to secure a recruit.
"You'd be surprised at the questions that come up," said Jane Mullens, Maryland's assistant athletics director for compliance. " I can't say I know everything, so I check [on the NCAAs Web site] for interpretations. Nine out of 10 questions that come up don't fit in exactly to the manual."
Without an authoritative body to enforce the rules, though, the NCAA's bylaws are rendered meaningless. That's why the NCAA's recent steps to crack down on the pervasive influences of AAU coaches on the recruiting process has Courtney wary of some rules' effectiveness.
These new rules dictate, Courtney said, that college coaches cannot contact and cannot even stay at the same hotels as AAU players or coaches at summer tournaments. At tournament sites like Augusta, Ga., this becomes difficult because there aren't that many hotels in the area. Courtney said it's an example of how difficult it is for the NCAA to enforce its rules.
"Sometimes, it's hard to enforce things," Courtney said. "and it hurts those that do follow the rules. Those that break them are helped by it. It makes no sense."
And really, there is little chance the NCAA can fully enforce a rule that states at which hotels coaches can stay Courtney called the rule "crazy." NCAA spokeswoman Jane Jankowski admitted much of the responsibility falls on the honesty and integrity of the coaches themselves.
"It's the way the NCAA is set up to work there is a responsibility to uphold the rules," Jankowski said. "Certainly, we do have violations. There is going to be a certain amount of that."
Every year, coaches must pass a 40-question, multiple-choice test given by the NCAA before they can go out to recruit. Nearly every coach has no problem passing it, but if they fail, they must wait 30 days before making another attempt.
"I don't know anybody that has ever failed it," Courtney said.
That's because it's open book.

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