In January, the NCAA made a pretty big announcement in terms of what would now be permissible in recruiting contact, allowing text messaging and relaxing regulations on when coaches could talk to potential recruits. It was met with a wave of reactions ranging from, "about damn time" to "eh, sounds fine." The previous recruiting guidelines were written long before the recruiting process was big business wrapped in a world of technology at everyone's fingertips. Change was due.
Of course, that didn't last.
The Division I Board of Directors on Thursday suspended the rule that would have allowed coaches to communicate with recruits in new ways - including through text messaging - and lifted restrictions on numbers of contacts.
The Board reconsidered its January adoption of the measure after receiving more than 75 override requests.
No word on whether those override requests came by telegram or rotary phone.
So now college football is back to square one where a huge coaching staff is trying its best it can to keep a clear line of communication open with recruits while trying its best not to go over the arbitrary limits imposed by the continually blind and out of touch NCAA in a society so technologically advanced that we can video chat from smartphones and see GIFs of plays on twitter minutes after they happen in a live game.
I don't know what the reasoning behind the 75 override requests was. Maybe some people thought that these are high school kids that don't need to spend hours chatting with coaches by text message; that time being better spent going to seven on seven camps, obsessively training, or pretty much text messaging incessantly with friends instead of coaches. It is possible that some smaller schools out there realized they just didn't have the wherewithal to keep up with the recruiting superpowers that have legions of assistants and staffers working for the ever expanding athletic departments of the landed gentry, and the thought of one more avenue opening up to further push the playing field (which, let's face it, is already totally uneven) further into the advantage of the big guys was just too much. Or maybe Indiana State and its ilk just like crapping on everyone's good time.
Now college football is back to where it was before January. A thousand self reported violations will roll in from every school because an arcane and arbitrarily mandated set of communication guidelines has been shoehorned in between coaches that want to talk to recruits and recruits that want to talk to coaches in the 21st century where you can do that pretty easily. Because of this, athletic departments are going to have to spend a lot of time chasing down the kind of violations that create a level of damage akin to a thousand paper cuts on the ass of a rhinoceros, instead of honest to god enforcement of the kinds of things that really matter to the NCAA, like some players getting paid for providing a service that earns their schools millions of dollars annually and therefore sullying the ideal of "amateurism" -- something that sounds almost more wholesome when used in the context of porn than college athletics.
But maybe that is the point. After all, the NCAA just swung and missed in an investigation into former Duke player Lance Thomas where it seemed almost cut and dry that he had broken the NCAA's even more arcane rules about impermissible benefits to student athletes, all because the NCAA has no power to make anyone say anything once they aren't in the organizations clutches anymore. Even more humorous: the NCAA broke its own rules governing investigations to try and nail Miami to the wall, but the whole thing collapsed once those tactics were brought to light. The only way the NCAA can get anyone to talk is to either A) bully them because they are a student athlete dependent on their scholarship or place on the team, or B) lie, cheat, or bribe. Keep fighting the good fight, guys.
So maybe that's the guise. "Hey, look over there," they say, pointing to phone calls and text messages so you won't see the massive failure somewhere off to the side as the NCAA clings to the idea that anything about this...
...is fair treatment. The more you worry about your rival coach texting recruits too much or breaking communications limits that are nigh unenforcible, the less you think about just how messed up the system is that generates records surpluses as a non-profit entity for tax purposes while watching coaching and athletic administrator salaries skyrocket compared to that of the people that actually teach the classes these "student athletes" spend their time in.
Zimbalist and Sack put the latter into particularly stark perspective. Between 1985 and 2010, they report, the average salary of head football coaches at 44 Division I schools increased by 750 percent, from $273,300 to $2,054,700. During the same period, the average salary of university presidents rose by 90 percent, while the average salary of full professors rose just 30 percent.
Which group is more essential to the collegiate educational mission?
All the while, Dave Brandon is "clearing up myths" about Michigan's athletic department in the most blatant piece of propaganda since the Cold War to show that amateurism is still great, and that Michigan isn't exploiting these kids for profits (no, those go to the facility upgrades and coaching salaries). Better get people on your side now before they hear what Ed O'Bannon has to say.
So keep looking off in the distance where Mark Emmert is pointing to text messages and too much communications like the fed up dad in an AT&T commercial, and try not to entertain the sneaking suspicion that he and his cronies are trying to draw your attention away from something important.