08/21/11 — Troublesome programs feel recruiting heat

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Troublesome programs feel recruiting heat

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on August 21, 2011 1:51 AM

The NCAA's nationwide house-cleaning tour of the country's athletic programs has left few stones unturned and sent a resounding message in the process -- either straighten up or pay the price.

Some of the nation's elite athletic programs from North Carolina, Ohio State, Boise State, the University of Miami, Southern California, Auburn, Oregon and others have faced varying degrees of allegations and penalties.

Several of these allegations have centered around recruiting, which is perhaps the largest issue that is currently leaving an ever-growing black eye on collegiate athletics.

College basketball recruiting has long been a dirty business marred by the AAU circuit along with other All-Star leagues. Recruiting a player strictly through his high school coach and his parents has become a thing of the past. Third parties, street agents and recruiting services -- each with their own motives and agendas -- have compromised a process once centered solely around helping a kid select the program best suited to help him further both his education and athletic career.

AAU tournaments have developed into glorified recruiting meat markets where coaches or third parties with little to no affiliation to an actual public or private high school can negotiate a player's recruitment to the highest bidder. AAU coaches or third parties commonly have an asking price in exchange for access to a recruit and especially for a signed national letter of intent. This is where the exchange of illegal gifts or benefits occurs, which is a direct NCAA violation.

Not all AAU programs are run with ulterior motives.

The Wayne County Blazers have experienced success on the court in recent years, while more importantly offering local athletes an opportunity to further their skills during the months prior and following basketball season at their respective schools. Several Blazers' alumni have gone on to play basketball collegiately. However, programs like the Wayne County Blazers are far too often the exception and not the rule.

College football is not excluded from this unfortunate practice in which the futures of promising young men has been perverted into a underhanded business. Seven-on-seven All-Star passing leagues, often with no affiliation to any public or private high school, have become increasingly popular across the country. Although college coaches are not allowed to attend 7-on-7 tournaments, coaches of 7-on-7 squads typically are not employed by a school and commonly have a direct impact on an athlete's recruiting process.

LSU was placed under probation for a year by the NCAA in July for committing major violations in the recruitment of a junior college player. In March, reports surfaced that Oregon paid Baron Flanery, a former player at New Hampshire and co-founder of Badger Sport/New Level Athletics, more than $3,700 for recruiting information.

Last fall, former Auburn quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, was embroiled in the middle of a well-documented pay-for-play scandal.

Earlier this week, reports surfaced that a former Miami booster told Yahoo! Sports he provided extra benefits to 72 athletes between 2002 and 2010. Convicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro claims he paid for nightclub outings, sex parties, cars and other gifts.

Without stricter penalties for recruiting violations, college athletics is currently a passenger on a runaway train driven by crooks and headed for a place where pure intentions and "love of the game" go to die. It's time for the NCAA to step in and slam on the brakes.