Ah, the unofficial visit. You remember those. You happen to be in town or near a college campus and walk around to check it out, maybe buy a T-shirt, and get a sense for what it's like to go to school there. Maybe you end up going there. Maybe you don't. But that feeling of being there sticks with you.
For big-time basketball recruits, the unofficial visit can generate that same make-or-break feelings toward a school and a program. But how exactly are they getting there to the campus given that colleges can't pay for costs and transportation for official visits until recruits become high school seniors?
The New York Times explored the issue in wake of former Tennessee assistant football coach Willie Mack Garza being accused in a Yahoo! Sports report of reimbursing costs of a recruit's unofficial visit. The paper found that the NCAA and many in college basketball are concerned that rules might be broken.
Steve Donahue, the Boston College men’s basketball coach, said: "I think it's very prevalent. It's curious to me how all this gets done in such a speedy fashion if you're going to abide by the rules."
Donahue is one of many coaches who favor an N.C.A.A. rule change that will be discussed this month by N.C.A.A. leadership that would allow universities to fly juniors to campus the spring before their senior year.
"Kids are making choices so quickly of who they can visit, they make the decision before you can even have a shot," Donahue said.
Interestingly enough, such a rule change would effectively remove some of the potential violations going on now involving third parties that help recruits get to campus. The change would be an acknowledgment that the recruiting game begins early, with many top prospects no longer waiting until their senior seasons to make their college choices.
Until then, there are questions about whether or not some unofficial visits are going by the book, especially when blue-chip players are now taking them across the country at a time when transportation costs are high.
Are there worse kinds of NCAA violations to be committed? Yes, but it's just another thing the NCAA has to concern itself with enforcing.