Remember the story of Josh Malone from a couple of months ago? He figured out an angle by signing multiple financial aid agreements with different schools, including Georgia, which gave him the ability to get around recruiting contact restrictions. At the time I thought it was a tactic for top recruits that could easily catch on. Stupid me – what I really should have noted was the inevitable response.
These financial-aid agreements, according to Jen Roe and Jamie Israel, associate directors of the NCAA’s academic and membership affairs staff, became hot topics for the organization after several top recruits signed with multiple programs last fall:
• Josh Malone, the No. 7-ranked receiver prospect nationally out of Gallatin, Tenn., signed agreements with Clemson, Florida State, Georgia and Tennessee before pledging to the Volunteers.
• No. 3-ranked running back Dalvin Cook of Miami signed with Miami, Florida State and Florida. He settled on FSU.
• Safety Laurence Jones of Monroe, La., rated No. 3 at his position, signed with LSU and Alabama. Jones then committed to the Crimson Tide.
Their actions raised eyebrows across the coaching community.
“That’s what you call the law of unintended consequences,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney described it as “troubling” to watch prospects sign with multiple programs.
“When we were introduced to it, we didn’t know you could sign multiple places,” Ole Miss linebackers coach Tom Allen said. “We had one young man who did it. I don’t think that was the spirit of what was intended. It was abused. It got kind of crazy.”
The agreements should be binding for the players, too, Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett said.
“That’s how it should be,” Bennett said, “or don’t sign any of them.”
The NCAA has already ruled with regard to bypassing contact rules, only the school with the first signed agreement rules. But that’s not good enough for these coaches. Unfortunately for them, the NCAA can’t do any more.
The NCAA officials said their organization has no power to limit the number of agreements a prospect can sign, because financial-aid documents — unlike letters of intent — fall outside of NCAA jurisdiction.
Damn it! Looks like coaches will have to take matters into their own hands.
Coaches said that, moving forward, they would encourage prospects to avoid signing multiple agreements.
“If you’re recruiting the right kind of people,” Cutcliffe said, “that’s not going to happen.”
Not sure who the right kind of people are exactly, but it’s hard to see how a top-rated recruit would be immune to exploring his options, regardless of how persuasive coaches like Cutcliffe might be.
Which is how you get to the topper…
At the request of a conference that Roe and Israel declined to identify, the legislation will be reviewed in April to determine if a prospect who signs an agreement with a school but does not enroll could constitute an NCAA violation.
Ain’t that a beaut? Let John Infante explain the nature of the screw job there:
The question posed by the unnamed conference would expand that idea to all of Division I. If this is found to be an NCAA violation, then it seems logical that the penalty for this violation would be similar to breaking the NLI. It could turn every financial aid agreement into an NLI simply because of the boilerplate included in every scholarship that it is “subject to NCAA rules”.
… Coaches will happily offer scholarship agreements to prospects who are reluctant to sign the NLI, only for the prospects to learn they essentially signed the same document. To say nothing of the mischief coaches might dream up if they have what amounts to an NLI that no other school knows the athlete signed.
All part of a bigger picture.
Right now the NCAA seems motivated to do more for student-athletes, especially on the financial aid and benefits front. Even agents might have their scarlet letter removed. But coaches and some administrators seem intent on hanging onto one critical element of control: the freedom of prospects and student-athletes to choose a school. Transfer rules will likely get more restrictive, not less. Most recruiting deregulation runs into loud objections from coaches. And now there appears to be the beginning of a movement to eliminate one of the few advantages prospects had when it came to putting pen to paper.
Gotta be fair to those coaches. After all, they’re the ones getting paid the big bucks.