- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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We already knew that Big Ten coaches and athletic directors expressed serious concerns over proposed NCAA recruiting de-regulations, and that the NCAA eventually suspended those rules until it could be studied further. But thanks to some fine reporting by the Cedar Rapids Gazette's Scott Dochterman, we now know more about the discussions that led to the Big Ten's objections.
The Gazette obtained several email exchanges between league officials and coaches and even between Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and NCAA president Mark Emmert. Shortly after signing day, the league issued a statement on behalf of its coaches and ADs expressing "serious concerns" about new rules that included unlimited text messaging to recruits and the ability to hire people who aren't coaches for recruiting positions.
The story contains an exchange between Delany and Emmert where Delany apologizes for not calling Emmert before the statement was released. Emmert responded that the proposals had been studied for months and that the only opposition had come from Rice, "who I don’t believe is a mainstream D1 school."
"If now the membership doesn’t want some of these changes, fine by me," Emmert wrote. "But to be honest, I don’t know how the membership wants to make decisions. The process used to make these changes was as open, representative and democratic and I could imagine -- other than the old town hall convention model I suppose."
The Gazette reported that Delany passed along this exchange to six Big Ten presidents, saying, "I’m not sure anyone has an appreciation of the compulsions, competitiveness and energy that underlies that pursuit of a 16 year old recruit by an assistant coach at our institutions. This process of pursuing athletic talent nationally and globally is something we have never found even a half way healthy way of managing/regulating. This continues to be the case."
Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon, who chairs the NCAA executive committee, was part of the group that came up with the recruiting proposals. She was upset at first that the league coaches and ADs raised objections so late in the process.
"I find it interesting that I was advised by the conference to vote for these rules being assured that they had been discussed within the conference and we were involved in the committee process,” she wrote. "I must admit after all of our integrity and power coach discussions, I found the press release -- the tone, the method and lack of conversation with Mark [Emmert] or me prior to release -- very disturbing.”
Delany responded to Simon's email in about a half an hour, writing: "These issues somehow did not get vetted on campus during football season or if they did minds were other places. With respect to tone I think the tone was quite responsible and the concerns were narrowly drawn."
The story also includes an interesting text message sent from Ohio State coach Urban Meyer to Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald in February about his concerns over the rules. Meyer texted:
"There are already teams that have made plans to have separate scouting depts. [sic]. There has already been NFL scouts that have been told they will be hired to run the dept. (hired for over 200k). I checked with an NFL friend and he confirmed that there was much conversation about this. Appealing to scouts because of no travel. Also, there has been movement to hire Frmr players/coaches with big names to work in that dept. and recruit full time. This will all happen immediately once rule is passed. Thought u should be aware if [sic] this nonsense to share with who u feel can assist."
Meyer’s text was circulated among Big Ten presidents and officials on Feb. 14. The email also included a scholarship offer of a freshman running back, which prompted Fitzgerald to write "This is what’s wrong with recruiting."
Fascinating stuff. The recruiting rules have been tabled but aren't dead yet. A new NCAA working group will review the proposals. You'd have to think everyone in the Big Ten will be on the same page during this latest process.