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Monday, August 22, 2011
Memphis avoids violation with top recruit

By Eamonn Brennan

Memphis fans had reason to be slightly nervous these past few months, and not only because head coach Josh Pastner seems intent on cramming yet more work into his already insane regimen. No, for a little while there, it seemed as though the Tigers could be in some hot water over their recruitment of top 2012 recruit Shabazz Muhammed.

The Memphis Commercial Appeal's Kyle Veazey has the skinny:
Muhammad's claim that the Tigers were "calling and calling and calling" prompted a question from the NCAA's Basketball Focus Group, an arm of the enforcement division formed in 2008 to gather information and explore potential violations in the sport. [...] But since he was not yet a senior in high school when he gave the interview, NCAA rules limited calls from schools to Muhammad at one per month.

The Basketball Focus Group began asking around about how Muhammed paid for an unofficial visit to Memphis, and it was interested in the recruitment of Minnesota forward Trevor Mbakwe, too. Memphis did its own investigation and reported back with its findings last fall, and on Friday the BFG called Memphis and said that it had accepted Memphis's self-reporting and confirmed that the school had committed no violations.

Why the confusion in the first place? You guessed it: obscure phone call rules. See, Muhammed's father is an AAU coach, so the school is allowed to call him more frequently than other parents and guardians provided the subject of those phone calls is about evaluations of players and not specifically about asking Muhammed to sign with Memphis. It's a loophole, yes, but it's a legal one.

Which is yet another reason why the NCAA needs to reform its phone calls by removing these sorts of restrictions altogether. The two major reasons for restricting phone calls -- cost and annoyance -- are now outdated. Coaches can't text with players, but they can send unlimited emails and private Twitter and Facebook messages. With push notifications and smartphone apps, these sorts of messages are basically the exact same thing as texts. And if you have unlimited texting -- and I'm pretty sure every 16-year-old has to have unlimited texting or their cell phone plans would engulf their parents' entire monthly budget -- the user experience on the front end is basically identical.

In other words, same takeaway, different day. When a rule as silly as phone calls can have this many unintended, needless side effects, it's probably not a very good rule. That's why the NCAA has moved toward changing it this offseason. In the meantime, coaches have to be as aware as Pastner -- who is universally hailed as a devoted compliance stickler -- to make sure they know the phone calls they're making aren't putting their program in unintended jeopardy. Hopefully, the Era of the Cell Phone Scandal will soon meet its end.

(Hat tip: CBS)