Editor's Note: In place of our normal Take Two Tuesday, we had Dave Telep chime in on two hot topics in the recruiting world: the new-look July evaluation period (which begins Wednesday) and the NCAA's recent smackdown of four AAU programs that had ties to agents. For more info, read Andy Katz's Daily Word on how coaches are reacting to the summer changes and Telep's piece on the AAU bans.
1) A shorter window for evaluation
Welcome to July 2.0, the NCAA’s answer to a request by the college basketball coaches. The past few years, college coaches were shut out of the spring evaluation period, told to stay home while AAU teams hooped it up in April.
The coaches begged for another chance, promised to behave if they were allowed back. The NCAA conceded, but the currency to pay for the concession came in the month of July.
The NCAA shortened the July evaluation period, creating three, four-day windows for events without really asking anyone’s opinion. What we now have is a shortened July in which event directors cram the same number of events into a tighter schedule. Will it work? What are the ramifications? Well, until we go through a complete cycle, we can only speculate.
The first impression is that travel is difficult. The windows to see players close quicker in the new format, so being in multiple places is exponentially harder. The big dogs with the private planes and astronomical budgets will have to manage their time well. The guys in the low and mid-major leagues who can’t afford to travel the same way are forced to make tough decisions and be crisp with their plans.
Murray State doesn’t have Kentucky’s budget and therefore travel decisions are played out on a different economic field. While UK can gas up, wheels up and off to another city, Murray might be anchored in a spot to ride out an event. Will the Racers see fewer players than in a typical recruiting cycle? Most believe the answer is yes.
The effect on the players themselves will be minimal. They’ll notice less time to recover and relocate to the next event. Maybe in the past, they squeezed out a day or two at home between events. With the new calendar, that might not be an option.
Any time you take a calendar and shave off days without eliminating events, you’re putting everything into a vice and squeezing. There’s a breaking point. The questions on everyone’s minds -- have we reached it, can it be squeezed tighter, or do all of the actors involved need more time for the month to play out?
The only way to judge is to go through a cycle, take notes and gauge if it worked. In Year 1 of the new rules, that’s exactly what we’re doing.
2) NCAA strikes a blow aimed at agents
Days before the July period tipped off, the NCAA set off a bottle rocket aimed at sports agents. An email allegedly from agent Andy Miller led to the sanctioning of four AAU teams, the muscle behind their operations and the removal of four familiar faces from this month’s summer scene.
The NCAA said these team operators couldn’t command their clubs in July and needed to step away. Basically, they banned T.J. Gassnola, Matt Ramker, Desmond Eastmond and Tony Edwards.
Behind the curtain, the NCAA aimed its limited powers in this matter at something it had control over: team certification for the month of July. However, the real goal was to out an agent who they may have suspected of funneling money and expenses to third parties and filtering it down the food chain. It’s no secret that in the grassroots world, agents and runners plant seed money among willing third-party participants.
The ban of the four men serves as a wake-up call to others who have direct and indirect ties to agents. There are others out there. They’re difficult to catch and even more difficult to try proving guilty. To me, this move by the NCAA indicates that no matter how slim the evidence may be, the NCAA is going to act and won’t be afraid to peek into Pandora’s box.
The NCAA did what it could by banning three of the four teams, removing their muscle and allowing the prospects who were not sanctioned to find alternative teams. One team kicked out its coach; two more changed names and distanced themselves from the named parties. The good news is that the kids who need scholarships haven’t been affected.
The timing of the decision to ban had to be planned. Days before the July period tipped, the NCAA acted. It was high-profile and highly effective in terms of shedding light on a problem. It didn’t solve the problem, but it put everyone on alert and sent a flare across the bow of those who are thinking about circumventing the system, no matter how loose it is.