Way to go, Willie Lyles. Way to ruin it for everybody.
In the wake of multiple allegations that one-man
street agents “scouting services” may have been involved in unscrupulous behavior and placed schools such as Oregon, LSU and Texas A&M on high alert, the NCAA has decided to broadly expand its definition of a scouting service. And, as a result, a few web powerhouses in the recruiting field have been caught up in the mess.
John Infante, the assistant director of compliance at Loyola Marymount University and man behind the NCAA’s Bylaw Blog, stated Friday on his twitter feed that the NCAA has banned schools from subscribing to Rivals.com, deeming the the network of websites more of a scouting service than a media entity. The NCAA clarified later that the ban on these types of sites goes beyond just Rivals, as tweeted by Bryan Fischer of CBS Sports.com.
“All recruiting/scouting services are held to the same legislated standard and we consider Rivals.com to be a recruiting/scouting service,” the NCAA said. That means sites such as Scout.com and the new 24/7 Sports.com, as well as ESPN.com team sites that have information behind a pay wall. How seriously is the NCAA taking this? It’s being reported that all schools who currently have a subscription to one of those sites are being required to report it to the NCAA as a secondary violation.
The reason behind the monumental shift in attitude, Infante tweets, is “that Rivals provides video of nonscholastic competition that is not available to the general public.” “Nonscholastic competition” would include such events as seven-on-seven tournaments, a rapidly growing program in the same vein as AAU basketball that some believe provides a fertile recruiting ground for the so-called street agents and other types of nefarious “handlers”.
Of course, video hidden behind a pay wall — which could be argued is indeed available to the general public as long as they open their wallet — is far from the only reason for the NCAA’s move. Another likely factor in the decision is the relationships that sites have developed within the football programs.
According to those more familiar with how these recruiting sites work – Bryan Fischer of CBS is a great example – it’s not just about the videos but the interaction between the sites and the teams they cover. For example, according to Fischer, team-specific sites – say, a Georgia-centric site – often share information with coaches that may or may not be made available to its other paying members.
This is a shaky relationship, one the N.C.A.A. wants to stop. I can get behind this stance, I suppose: a site that passes along tidbits and items about a certain prospect grants a team a leg up in that prospect’s recruitment, even if another team site can do the same for a different team. Take this scenario: Georgia’s Rivals site tells Mark Richt or a Georgia assistant that one recruit is looking to go to the same school as a teammate, or is interested in playing one position over another.
Richt could then use this inside information when making his recruiting pitch, offering this top prospect’s teammate or making sure the recruit is aware his position of choice is available when he arrives in Athens. You can see why the N.C.A.A. might want to put a stop to such a dialogue.
So, what does this all mean? It appears the NCAA is taking very seriously these street agents who may or may not be masquerading as scouting services, and the potential for money exchanging hands as one of those types of people steer a recruit to a school. Unfortunately, and as unfair as it seems at first blush, sites like Rivals and their competitors have been, for now at least, caught in the crossfire of the crackdown.