How do coaches give ethics committee teeth?

May, 14, 2009
Some agents and/or runners are contacting players while they're in college or even before they enroll. There is a gray area on how to handle summer-league coaches who want access at camps. Coaches still can abuse the rule that prohibits chatting during a player-evaluation period. There are reports at times of parents' pressuring coaches for a handout. These are some of the major issues that college coaches face.

So, once again, the NCAA and the National Association of Basketball Coaches are making another attempt to bring ethical behavior to the forefront. The last time there was an ethics summit, it was led by then-Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson. A few years later, he was out as head coach at Indiana amid NCAA violations.

The timing of the summit comes against the backdrop of Connecticut's being investigated for allegations of excessive phone calls and using an agent/booster representative to secure a player or players. USC is in the cauldron of a potential payment-for-play situation, as head coach Tim Floyd is being accused of paying former player O.J. Mayo's handler, Rodney Guillory. The Trojans' recruitment of top-10 2009 forward Renardo Sidney also came into question after he was essentially dismissed by UCLA and USC before Mississippi State signed him.

The ethics committee met for the first time last week in Indianapolis.

"The silent majority is doing the right things all the time, trying to make the right ethical decisions," said Michigan coach John Beilein, the chair of the committee. "Education is one of the biggest things that we're trying to do and have uniformity in how you handle situations. There are so many gray areas in recruiting, and we want to get the word out as to how you handle gray-area situations with recruiting and parents when they come up to you in the stands at an event."

Beilein said that college coaches have to walk away and tell parents of recruits they're not allowed to speak with them, even though doing so might be awkward. The same rule applies for talking to high school coaches. These rules have been busted for years in July and during other evaluation periods. The landscape in recruiting continues to change, and the April evaluation period was taken away this past year so that coaches could concentrate on going to the high schools or junior colleges during the week rather than attending a meat market of events at neutral sites.

But the real issue NCAA basketball coaches face isn't a bump with a parent, high school coach or player. It's dealing with agents who contact the players whom coaches are recruiting too early, either before they get to campus and/or while they're in school.

It's no secret amid college basketball that some coaches may use agents to reach players because they are controlling them at a younger age. This is likely more of an issue for the National Basketball Players Association to start to sanction player agents who are engaged in this practice. But the pipeline already has started with agents' hiring summer-league coaches as potential scouts to land clients. And breaking that chain will take more than an ethics committee.

Beilein and his crew won't have legislative power. Their best hope is to get the word out on what is expected. The committee consists of Oklahoma's Jeff Capel, Boston College's Al Skinner, Saint Joseph's Phil Martelli, former South Carolina coach Dave Odom, Vanderbilt's Kevin Stallings, Butler's Brad Stevens, UC Davis' Gary Stewart, Stanford's Johnny Dawkins and Tulsa's Doug Wojcik. Notre Dame's Mike Brey was the Big East rep but had to withdraw for personal reasons, so the NCAA hopes to put another coach from the Big East on the committee and will attempt to lure Pitt's Jamie Dixon.

Beilein said the hope is that if all coaches are obligated to watch an officiating/rules video in the fall and take yearly compliance tests, they should essentially be forced to hear out the ethics committee's charge. How they accomplish that -- through e-mail, mailings or a video -- is still to be determined. Having a human resources-driven workplace policy video might be an example with actors playing the role of coach, player, agent and parent in a "what-would-you-do type of scenario."

"Everyone sometimes thinks they're on an island, but we want them to see how to deal with it the right way, and if you do that, you can still win every year," Beilein said. "We all have unique problems in different conferences."

The NCAA is big on the "Don't Bet On It" posters that line college campuses discouraging gambling. But maybe they also should post signs warning coaches about ethics issues that they would see when they walk into a high school, junior college or AAU-sanctioned event. Campus signage also could be directed at runners and agents saying, "Don't talk to my players." Coaches tend to be afraid of backlash if they speak up, but if the ethics committee wants to have teeth, it must go on the offensive without the fear of offending.

• UCLA coach Ben Howland said he still has no idea where the Bruins will play their games in 2010-11 during the Pauley Pavilion face-lift. The choices are the Honda Center in Anaheim, the Staples Center in Los Angeles and The Forum in Inglewood. Keeping UCLA's corporate signage might be an important point. Howland isn't big on the project, which includes a practice gym. He wants to practice where he plays, which is why he doesn't see the need for an entirely new facility. He's more concerned about ensuring Pauley Pavilion is as glamorous as it can be for the Bruins.

• Baylor coach Scott Drew is already talking up the significance of landing Nolan Dennis, a player who signed with the Bears after the fallout from when John Calipari went from Memphis to Kentucky. Dennis originally signed with Memphis. Drew expects Dennis to be the key member of a five-member recruiting class to ensure the Bears stay in the discussion in the Big 12.

• Miami and Kentucky (and don't officially rule out Duke and Florida) are still patiently waiting for John Wall, the top point guard out of Word of God Christian Academy (Raleigh, N.C.) to make a decision. But at least one source within one of the schools is confident that Wall will decide before the spring signing period ends Wednesday.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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