In case you hadn't heard -- and by now, you probably have -- ESPN.com investigative reporter Mike Fish dropped a large and comprehensively thorough six-piece report on the African Hoop Opportunities Providing an Education Foundation. A-HOPE is run by Mark Adams, who also coaches a top Indiana AAU program, Indiana Elite.
The six stories focus on a range of issues related to Indiana Elite and A-HOPE, which lists its mission as "to provide deserving student athletes a seamless process of obtaining a student visa, transportation to the United States, making sure they are acclimated to their new environment and providing them with an opportunity to receive an outstanding education." That includes the question of whether or not the organization steers players to preferred schools (like, for example, Indiana); the story of a former player apparently left behind by the organization; the story of another who says his relationship with A-HOPE ended after he chose a non-preferred school; the denial of Indiana Elite founder Mark Barnett that he attempted to adopt Kentucky player DeAndre Liggins.
The stories are less an exposé on collegiate recruiting than on A-HOPE itself. (Though the series makes Baylor, already under investigation for the recruitment of Columbian forward Hanner Perea, look even worse.) But there are some concerns for IU fans in the wake of Fish's pieces. One is the deep connection A-HOPE seems to share with the Hoosiers. As Fish writes:
After Drew Adams, the son of Mark Adams, was promoted to director of operations/video coordinator in April 2010, Crean signed or picked up commitments from eight players with ties to A-HOPE and/or the Indiana Elite program.
There's no wrongdoing there. Drew Adams was hired before the NCAA closed that particular recruiting loophole, and working connections with AAU organizations to land recruits is the oldest recruiting angle in the book. But the notion of a nonprofit organization ostensibly focused on African education steering players to schools based on preferred connections doesn't exactly make one feel all warm and gooey inside. And Indiana would argue that several of those players -- including lynchpin recruit Cody Zeller -- weren't influenced by their AAU connections. Likewise, most of the A-HOPE players have been minimal contributors.
Really, the story is A-HOPE. But the most pertinent college-related finding Fish made -- one that could affect coming seasons -- came from his piece about the convoluted recruitment of Perea:
But a five-month ESPN.com investigation into the Bloomington, Ind.-based African Hoop Opportunities Providing an Education (A-HOPE) Foundation, which claims the South American-born Perea as a foundation beneficiary, has found circumstances outside of the Baylor issue that very well might impact his initial NCAA eligibility at Indiana. Treatment afforded him by A-HOPE and its president, Mark Adams, including roundtrip airline tickets to Colombia, appears to put Perea in violation of NCAA preferential treatment and extra benefits bylaws (126.96.36.199.6).
Also at issue are gifts Perea has received from A-HOPE and Adams, whose son served on the IU basketball staff from September 2009 until this month. Perea is a member of an AAU team -- Indiana Elite -- which Adams coaches and whose best players have in the last year begun committing verbally to IU in bunches. The NCAA declined to comment specifically on Perea, but a spokesperson said that generally, "benefits from the prospects' coach other than basic living expenses are considered against NCAA rules."
The supposed benefits purchased by Adams are minimal: A computer, an iPod, a cell phone, and flights to Columbia to see his family. If precedent is any indication, Perea would probably have to repay the value of those items -- and possibly serve a suspension upon arriving at Indiana in 2012 -- in order to maintain his eligibility.
That's for the NCAA to sort out. In the meantime, block off some time in your day to read Fish's work. I have a feeling we'll be discussing this one for a while.