Behind the Scenes of College Football Recruitment

by Michelle Greenbaum

The National Collegiate Athletic Association, or the NCAA, has strict guidelines spelling out the rights and wrongs of recruitment behavior for colleges and universities. However, over the years, there have been numerous scandals involving big schools and talented athletes. Rules were made to be broken, but these scandals have led to penalties and probations that are tainting the competitive spirit of amateur college football.

For example, Auburn University faced a scandal in 2010 when allegations were made that  quarterback Cam Newton was asking for money from two schools seeking to recruit him. It’s said that his father asked for over $100,000 from each of the schools. The allegation was never proven and Newton was eligible to play.

The scandals don’t stop at monetary propositions. Over a period of eight years, the University of Miami allegedly offered recruits incentives ranging from payments of money to payments of sex from prostitutes in the area. After investigations began, the school decided not to participate in the bowl games of 2011 and a number of students were penalized. Another school that was wrapped even deeper in sex scandal was the University of Colorado. The combination of using sex and alcohol to get recruits to join led to unfortunate accusations of rape in 2001. The school was placed on probation from 2002 to 2004.

Penalizations for breaking NCAA recruiting rules range from suspension and limits on scholarships, to probation from bowl games and restricted televised games. Worst of all is the “death penalty.” Southern Methodist University is the only football program to have ever received this penalty. In the 1970s and 1980s, the team paid players to join the team and to stay with school instead of dropping out for the National Football League (NFL). Their 1987 season was canceled, they could not field a team for 1988, and they were prohibited from offering scholarships until 1991.

The University of Miami is on the verge of being the second football program in 25 years to receive the death penalty. Along with allegations of offering prostitution, the University of Miami has been accused of offering their players multimillion-dollar homes, yachts, jewelry, and access to the hottest nightclubs on South Beach. Even worse, more extreme allegations include bounties for injuring opponents and even a subsidized abortion.

So how do we solve the crisis of illegal college recruiting and who is to blame?

It all starts in high school. Scouts, whose job is to guide and counsel players in the right direction towards playing ball at their dream school, are treating these young adults like property. They do it all for profit. To ensure fair recruiting, legal action should be taken against these “counselors” to prevent them from coming in contact with young players and their families. However, with sporting and the opportunity to play in top college football programs being so competitive, families are often the ones encouraging their children to break the rules and do whatever it takes to make it big.

Once the recruit reaches the university, it is up to the school and their compliance departments to ensure that the coaches are not in contact with them and that the sport remains at an amateur level. With professional sports having a fame factor, large salaries, and pay for the injured, collegiate sports desire to keep the amateur level pure. But with violations and increasingly disgusting incentives being offered each season this hasn’t been the case.

Why? Because college sports is a business. Just take a look at the University of Oregon. The Ducks’ city of Eugene thrives on the football team alone. Minutes after exiting the airport, you are greeted with a giant billboard picturing one of Oregon’s fastest running backs and the signature, giant “O.” Almost every restaurant and bar in Eugene supports the Ducks, hanging signs on their windows and opening up their parking lots for extra spaces on game day.

After the team’s BCS Championship appearance in 2011, the number of applications from students seeking attendance the university has skyrocketed. Many believe it is due to the football team’s success. Nike plays a large role in the team’s triumphs. Phil Knight, co-founder of Nike and a former Duck, contributes largely to the university (over $300 million in the last 20 years), specifically the football program. Recently, Knight funded the $42 million athlete tutoring center and the $68 million expansion of the athletic department and football operations buildings. With state of the art facilities like these, who needs to bribe the recruits? Just seeing the buildings and the different uniform combinations the Ducks receive for each game is enough compensation in itself.

One way to solve the problem of illegal recruiting could be to pay these athletes, but it can be argued that they do get paid – because they get full athletic scholarships. However, the scholarships are somewhat of a joke. Loads of money are handed out to these athletes who rarely even receive a degree. Their sole purpose of playing collegiate ball is for the players to get recognized. Once they do, they drop out of school and join the NFL. Sure, these students have the opportunity to return to school after their professional football careers are over. But do they? No. The money that is forked out to pay for these athletes’ “education” is brought back in with the publicity and hype of college athletics. The players receive money to win games and bowls, making the coaches and schools receive money. It is all just a business.

The NCAA is using these young athletes to benefit their schools, their programs, and the BCS. The reason that schools are doing whatever it takes to seal the deal with their players is because they benefit financially in the long run. I think we can solve this problem by changing the way these football programs and recruiting programs are organized. Once committed to the school, the player should be obligated to graduate. Once doing so, they should be ineligible for the NFL draft until they have received their degree. If they decide to drop out, they are to be ineligible for the NFL draft for the amount of time it would have taken them to graduate.

Another solution to the recruiting crisis could be the creation of a minor league. High school baseball players are able to enter the minor league, where they are recognized by the MLB, then recruited for major league baseball. Football players don’t have this option. Their only hope for recognition by the NFL is to play college ball. With the adoption of a minor league, the high school graduates can choose whether they want to commit to a university – where they must finish their degree, or they can get paid to join a minor league.

If a changes are not made within the NCAA, within the university systems, and within the coaches who will do whatever it takes to take home a trophy, then violations and penalizations will continue. In time, so many schools will be on probation that we won’t see any action on the field at all. So save the diamond rings, sexy girls, and fancy dinners for Las Vegas. This is college football and these athletes are receiving money to get degrees. Isn’t that enough?

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