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Monday, August 1, 2011
Rule in Coach K contact issue simply inane

By Dana O'Neil

"Duke’s NCAA rules compliance office is seeking an interpretation from the NCAA as to whether a recruit can talk to a coach by phone if the recruit is not playing in a tournament but is still on the road, according to a source with knowledge of the situation."

That’s from a news story written by my colleague, Andy Katz, summarizing Mike Krzyzewski's current situation. At issue is whether the Duke coach violated an NCAA rule by contacting Alex Poythress after his team was eliminated from the Orlando Super Showcase.

The answer: Only if it was before noon on a cloudy Tuesday, and he was standing on one leg while singing the national anthem.

Seriously, if we are going to pick over the carcass of the rulebook this finely, then the rule itself is simply inane.

And before anyone starts to lob hand grenades and sees this as a defense of all things Krzyzewski and Duke, let me make one thing clear: This would be a stupid rule if any coach was accused of breaking it.

The NCAA already has legislated social graces, forbidding coaches from saying hello to a recruit or risk violating the so-called bump rule. Now we’re trying to decide if a recruit is still with his team, but his team isn’t playing at that moment (but might again soon!) and whether a coach can contact him?

Does anyone else think this sounds like a tree falling in a forest?

Back when these contact rules were initially legislated, it was to protect high school kids from middle-aged stalkers who made teenage girls blanch with their ability to call mercilessly. Kids and their parents complained that some coaches were relentless, phoning over and over again, jingling the phone during dinner, homework and whenever the spirit moved them.

And it was a reasonable request to force coaches to cool their heels.

That was back before this neat little invention called Caller ID and long before text messaging and instant messaging and face timing and every other means of communication that high schoolers use today.

Now it’s not complicated. If a kid doesn’t want to talk to a coach, he hits ignore. Presumably the coach will eventually get the message -- he’s not that into you -- and go on their merry way.

Instead, the NCAA is trying to legislate what every high school kid already has mastered -- the art of the blow-off.

There are real problems in college athletics, deep and insidious ones that are putting pockmarks all over the game. The integrity of college sports is getting whacked like a piņata and meantime people are trying to figure out whether Krzyzewski violated a rule by calling a kid between tournaments?

When NCAA officials wonder why outsiders criticize the organization as a bureaucratic outpost of uselessness, they need to read that first sentence in Katz’s news story.

If a tree falls and only the NCAA is around to hear it, maybe we should hope that the sapling clonks some folks on the head and into their senses.