Big Ten coaches evaluate July

CHICAGO -- The NCAA's Board of Directors gave July recruiting a one-year reprieve on Thursday. Rather than eliminating the July recruiting period, as recommended by the Collegiate Commissioners Association last week, the NCAA decided to commission a one-year study to determine the various pros and cons associated with summer recruiting.

The reason for July's stay of execution? As our own Dave Telep wrote last week, the majority of college programs -- coaches especially -- dislike the idea. Most believe, as Telep wrote, that the rule's potential damage to coaches' scouting abilities outweighs the rule's ability to limit the influence of AAU power brokers, who thrive in July.

Around the same time the NCAA was making their announcement, nearly all of the Big Ten's coaches were fielding questions about the July recruiting period. If there's one thing coaches could agree on in regards to recruiting, it probably came from Michigan State's Tom Izzo.

"Recruiting's the hardest part of our job," Izzo said. "When you go all year long and you get a little bit of time -- and it's the nicest time of the year -- and you're gone almost the entire month, I think that makes it difficult."

Izzo wasn't exactly for or against the July recruiting period, though he did seem rather fond of the idea of getting some extra summer sun. (The Upper Peninsula is beautiful in July, right?) Izzo also made a salient version of the "everyone-plays-with-the-same-ball" line you might hear when someone complains about a basketball at pickup games: If everyone has to follow the same set of rules, they're probably going to get the same kind of kids, whether or not the July evaluation period exists.

More than anything, though, the Michigan State coach was worried about whether AAU summer hoops forces kids to play too many games as their bodies are still developing.

"I'd like to see a study on whether it's affecting our kids when they get in college," Izzo said. "Not only on the energy level and the passion for the game, but on whether or not we're wearing them out too early like sports sometimes do.

"I don't think we're looking at that angle," Izzo said. "Everybody says they'll continue to play. But, boy, if you had a son or a daughter and they're gone for what seems to be like two months of the summer for all these different camps, and you feel obligated to be at them, there is a wear-down factor."

As for the merits of the rule, Izzo's colleagues weren't convinced, though most admitted they didn't have an obvious solution to the agent-related problems the NCAA is trying to solve. A sampling of their thoughts:

  • Ohio State coach Thad Matta: "I don't know if I have a definitive answer. It's kind of like when everyone asks me about the one and done. I don't know what's right, what's wrong. I would think if they were to take July away or cut it back, hopefully they would give us the days throughout the course of the year. ... I understand where they're going. I think that agents -- that to me right now is the biggest thing that's going on. And I love what football is doing. They had a blowup and they took the bull by the horns, and they're getting this thing corrected. And the same thing that goes on in football goes on in basketball."

  • Northwestern coach Bill Carmody: "I'm not too sure what the alternative is. ... I think sometimes in the past with recruiting, there have been some knee-jerk reactions, and then a year later the rules changed. So I think people recognize there's a need to do something here. I just think more thought has to go into what's the best [solution], not just for our conference, but for college basketball. ... I think it's great that we're tossing it about, because certainly there are things about it that have to improve."

  • Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan: "For me, some of the best players that I've coached I saw during the July period, because I've coached at every different level. ... I think some coaches, they can just snap their fingers and get whoever they want. So they probably don't want to be out in July. I don't think you're ever going to eliminate third-party influences by saying you're not going to have July recruiting. I think whoever had that idea definitely hasn't been with us. ... There's stories both ways, I'm sure, but I like to stick with the basketball part of it and what it means to be able to see young men play rather than always talk about the negatives that might surround five kids. So I like July. I don't like it extended."

  • Illinois coach Bruce Weber: "I know it will be a hot topic over the next year, to see what happens with it. There's good and bad. The good is you obviously get to see a lot of kids at one time. The bad is I think sometimes the kids have too much basketball, too much travel, and it's hard on the coaches and players in a tough period. ... I've been doing it for 30-some years, and I've been out every summer. If it would change, it would be a big change for coaches, I know that."