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Thursday, September 2, 2010
On the NCAA's new crackdown coach: Who?

By Eamonn Brennan

In June, the NCAA revealed that it was looking to add three former coaches to its Basketball Focus Group. I jokingly called such coaches "rats," which was probably not a very nice thing to do; the NCAA desperately needs coaches willing to break their silence and talk to the organization about the ins and outs of illicit recruiting. Ostracizing such coaches, even sarcastically, wasn't cool. Just like the Chicago police department, the NCAA needs snitches, too.

A few months later, we appear to have learned who those folks will be. Jeff Goodman's sources listed three hires, which Goodman detailed in a column yesterday. They are former Ohio State player and coordinator of the NCAA's First Team Program Chris Singleton; NCAA membership services employee Julie Powers; and coach Ken Huber.

Wait. Who?

Huber was the only coach hired by the NCAA, and you can forgive yourself if you haven't heard of him. According to Goodman, most Division I coaches haven't, either. (Goodman's anonymous quotes from coaches are borderline depressing. An example: "He'll be all over it." That coach was being sarcastic. Nice.) Huber was hired away from his current position as an assistant coach of the women's team at Gardner-Webb. His resume -- which includes stops at Florida International, Wright State, North Florida, and a handful of Division II programs -- doesn't exactly sing out with recruiting hotspots.

Needless to say, this is not the high-level, plugged-in hire most envisioned when the NCAA revealed it was looking for coaches to join its fight against recruiting naughtiness. Huber hasn't coached at a big-time school; he hasn't recruited big-time prospects; presumably, his ties to high-level AAU runners and agents are tenuous, if they exist at all.

The good news is that Huber is reportedly a very ethical, hard-working, stand up dude. Which is great. But that doesn't mean he's going to be able to outline the unseemly ways AAU figures, college coaches, and agents have corrupted the basketball recruiting process beyond recognition. Unless he's more plugged-in than his record would imply, he's not going to sit in a boardroom and tell the NCAA how one recruiter is tied to another. He's not going to glance at a newspaper story announcing the latest big-time signing and know the exact path that player took to that school. He won't have any smoking guns; he won't have any inside info. He's no Mark Whitacre. (Which, now that I think about it, is probably a good thing.)

In other words, he's just like us, if a little bit more well-connected. The average college hoops fan has a vague idea of how the sausage is made, but we don't know the sordid truth behind the factory walls. Maybe that's because we don't want to know.

The NCAA does. Make no mistake: The Basketball Focus Group's sheer existence is a great start. But if the folks in Indianapolis are looking to do more than mere reaction every time a new recruiting scandal -- if they're looking for the sort of comprehensive understanding that facilitates genuine prevention -- it will require the cooperation of far more than the well-respected assistant women's coach from Gardner-Webb.

Here's hoping Huber can surprise us. But other coaches, officially or not, need to come along for the ride.