SI on scholarships

An interesting piece from Sports Illustrated’s Seth Davis, in light of some of the conversation we’ve had here recently.

Here’s one of the main points of the story. It comes from Michigan coach John Belein, who is chairing an ethics committee for the coaches.

“Awarding scholarships when you don’t have them is not the direction I think most coaches go in,” Beilein said. “I think we have to take a long look at that. It’s one thing if a kid leaves and you sign somebody else. I think we have a whole different issue when you sign people and people haven’t left yet. That sends a bad message.”

Tom Crean, of course, did this when he took six letters-of-intent last season and only had five scholarships to give. But he was also the leader of a program facing a complete rebuilding process unlike anything seen before in a major program. That much has been acknowledged here dozens of times. It wasn’t a regular situation. And I don’t think it will be a regular situation at Indiana anytime soon.

But this is a good read on the scholarship issue, and it points out why some parents out there are confounded by the vagaries of recruiting — and rightfully so.

20 comments

  1. I think that it would be interesting to interview football and basketball scholarship players from the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and 00’s, not the stars but the second string. My guess is the pressure has ramped up over the decades. The pressure is on the coaches, therefore the players are subjeced to that pressure.
    Today, if you are on scholarship, if you can’t compete you may be gone/will be gone. BB is easier to notice because there are fewer players on the roster, but it is going on with football too.
    The problem has been identified, no one is offering a solution. To me, that’s a shame.

  2. While it is accurate that Crean offered more scholarships than he had spots, his situation requires a different evaluation than the same behavior from other coaches; that is, ones with most of a full roster coming back year to year.

    What I think Beilein is referring to is behavior like John Calipari exhibited when he got to Kentucky. He immediately started signing big-time recruits, and got to the point that he has 16 players for 13 scholarships. He could have had 17 had Jodie Meeks not surprisingly decided to stay in the NBA draft. So, even though he had an experienced roster and wasn’t rebuilding literally from almost nothing, he significantly oversigned, and will have to–no sugarcoating–run off 3 players who have done what was asked of them. That is marginally ethical at best, though my UK fan friends say it’s ‘just in the best interest of the program.’

    Similarly, in football, Houston Nutt signed 37 players in his current class, despite having only about 25 scholarships to give. It’s his way of turning over the roster to reshape to his style of play. He’s a fine coach, and probably only bending to the ‘win now’ mentality that’s prevalent today, but again, that behavior is on very tenuous ethical ground in my opinion.

    Gee, both of these situations involve SEC schools. Why am I not surprised? Hey look, Alabama is on probation again. Imagine that.

  3. I forgot to include that Houston Nutt is going into his second year at Ole Miss, having come over from Arkansas after the ’07 season.

  4. Chris, you have totally confused me on your developing scholarship numbers crusade. I hope the embarassment of having Crean get annoyed at your question doesn’t inspire more and more entries like this one totally unrelated to IU’s situation. Put yourself in Crean’s shoes. What is confusing? He offers scholarships to the kids he wants. They can say yes or wait. If someone else says yes, he withdraws the scholarship offer to the other people he looked for to fill that need and pursues the ones he still would take. Its simple.

    He has said he doesn’t plan on overcommitting in 2010 and hinted that he will consider using the oversign (only 1 over allowed) in 2011.

    What is hard to understand? Are some of your readers confused by IU offering more scholarships than they have available? Then they don’t follow recruiting, pretty much everyone does that. Situations with new coaches tend to offer a ton more. Take a look at how many kids Xavier, Arizona, Marquette, and Kentucky are mentioned with. But it doesn’t matter if you are established or not, there is nothing wrong with offering as many kids as you want. You still get only 13 and can only oversign by 1.

    From Crean’s perspective hearing a good beat writer like you say his recruiting is confusing and then hiding behind suggestions that kids say so must be frustrating. He tells them they have an offer. If they take it, they get it. If someone else takes it first, its too late. Kids with offers know that. I’m sure some kids like maybe Teague or Irving might be told we’ll find a way if we’re full for them but that is not news its just how things are.

    Since Crean has 2 open rides for 2010 and 1 to add on a 2011 if he oversigns it must sound insane when someone who should understand like a quality beat writer makes it out like its confusing.

    What exactly is confusing about it? Please don’t deflect that to a vaugue statement about kids saying so, I’m sure kids who don’t have offers worry about IU’s numbers. But the kids who do have offers can commit if they worry about it.

  5. How about we all just agree the NCAA is the most inequitable org. in the world? Fair enough.

    Crean doesn’t make, interpret, enforce, or break the rules. He simply plays them to his maximum advantage.

    The over-signing issue sucks, but so does pinning all your hopes (and your job & tons of your school’s cash) on the whims of a 18-yr-old. The whole system needs scrapped and replaced.

  6. I believe the one over rule is necessary since the NBA created the “one and done”. Coaches in established programs who are recruiting these caliber of players must have a plan if one or more of their players suddenly bolt to the NBA.

  7. Chris M,

    First of all, relax.

    Second, YOU seem to be confused, because it appears that you didn’t grasp the main points of the article and/or Korman’s reason for posting it.

    No one is disputing that it’s ok to offer more players than you have room for. Obviously, that’s what every coach does based on the reasonable assumption that not everyone will accept.

    The article doesn’t take issue with how many offers coaches make, but rather, when coaches have rosters that are full and secure, with no reasonable cause to believe that anyone is leaving or transferring, and they continue to sign better recruits while essentially releasing the lesser players.

    Korman even pointed out in his post, that Crean’s situation was unique and may be subject to a different sort of evaluation. I highly doubt that he posted this article based on some sort of personal beef with Crean. But, then again, what do I know? You could be right. Maybe, because of a small and soon-to-be-forgotten quibble with Crean at a press conference (that never happens between coaches and writers EVER!), Korman decided that risking his credibility and objectivity as a journalist to take personal stab at the coach that he’ll be covering and interviewing for the next several years would be totally worth it.

    I guess I don’t understand your misdirected hostility, and find it ironic that you, yourself seem to have missed the true intentions of this article.

  8. Casey, you must not have read the interview Korman did with Crean the other day, before this article was written… Go to Inside the Hall and read the transcript. I completely agree with Chris M.

  9. “IU Fan” is right – the ‘one and done’ rule causes such a fluid situation in most programs that the coaching staff HAS TO offer more scholarships than might theoretically be available. And don’t blame the NCAA – this is all on the NBA. They want a free ‘minor league’ where kids can be developed and evaluated without cost to the league or member teams. So, universities are forced to use ‘mercenaries’ who are by NO MEANS interested in getting a college degree or even going to the occasional class. Then in the extremely likely case that the kid isn’t NBA material, he just ‘goes away'(without an education) and is replaced by another over-confident 18 year-old who thinks he has ‘game.’ I really don’t think that college basketball would be any less interesting if it was played by actual college students. Kids who want to try making a living playing ball out of high school (or grade school)should be allowed to do so and stop making a mockery of college sports.

  10. Casey,

    I’m not yelling and calling people names, my blood pressure is fine and I don’t need somebody telling me when to relax. I love Korman’s coverage or I wouldn’t be here and you don’t get to pick and choose when people can criticize him any more than I get to pick and choose who criticizes Crean.

    What the problem is here is that we have reporters telling recruits and the general public that our coach appears to be ready to kick kids off the team so he can load up on future players. It lends credibility to it even though its totally unfair. We heard it all year last year when we were overcommitted but Chris should’ve known what the situation was and missed it and so did a handful of people on the internet who wailed and wailed about it giving it traction and now opposing fans are entering “house Creaning” into slang dictionaries.

    Chris is being irresponsible to ask a question and then throw down the “kids we talk to say it” when asked to explain what is confusing. He still hasn’t answered Crean’s question or mine about what exactly is confusing. Its not confusing for anyone who has an offer. They can take it. Nobody on our team has been asked to leave. Crean had to re-recruit several players this year and had knowledge ahead of time that he would. He was never risking running anyone off. Chris can talk to Matt Roth about that story and Bradley if he wants to do a minimum amount of digging before encouraging this kind of stuff.

    I like Chris, he’s good. Just like Chris likes Crean and thinks he’s good. But Chris isn’t asking tough questions, he’s asking bad ones and encouraging his readers to get the wrong impression and apparently talking to some recruits about it too.

    When Crean runs someone off to bring in a top player, this kind of thing is a reasonable question. But him recruiting a lot of people is not unusual or confusing. Once again, I’m sure some local D1 level kids who don’t have IU offers are probably confused but that’s how its supposed to be. Kids with offers know the score. They can accept until the spot is gone.

    Simple. And I’m still relaxed. You relax for that matter, sounds like your comments to me were pretty similar to mine to Korman.

  11. Chris M,

    Appreciate your comments here.

    But I do take offense to you suggesting that I “missed it” in regards to the situation last year. I wrote repeatedly that the scholarship situation would sort out naturally and that Crean wouldn’t need to displace anyone.

    I’ve never told a recruit or the general public that Crean “appears to be ready to kick kids off the team.”

    Here’s what is confusing, and this is all I wanted to talk to Crean about:

    Let’s say Austin Etherington commits tomorrow. And then Marquis Teague calls Sunday and wants to also commit. It seems unlikely that Crean would say no. Suddenly Crean has taken two more players than he plans to have scholarships for. Meanwhile, Crean is also saying, “Our team is here, we need to focus on them.”

    I asked Crean how he was going to manage all that. Because I think it’s an interesting discussion. I’m not leading any “crusade” here, just trying to ferret out details of how the recruiting game works.

    You make it out to be pretty black and white — a kid has a scholarship offer and he either takes it in time or doesn’t — but I don’t think it is. Some kids are pressured to swipe an open spot, some are told that the spot will be there whenever they decide.

    Also, you know full well a major part of recruiting, for the prospect, is feeling wanted and seeing where they’ll fit in the program. There’s definitely some concern from the recruits I’ve talked to that IU doesn’t really want them because of how many other players they’re offering at the same position (or already have in the program.)

    I won’t pretend to be an expert at covering recruiting. It’s still a relatively new part of this whole job.

    But here’s a quote in a story today: Again the scholarship question this year is not as straightforward as most years because Indiana only has one player set to graduate in 2011 (Jeremiah Rivers) and already has one 2011 commitment (Matt Carlino). Therefore scholarships will have to come through unused 2010 grants and/or players leaving Indiana early.

    That’s from Mike Pegram (Peegs), and he’s been following this thing for a long time. If he thinks it’s a bit unusual, then I trust my feelings along the same lines. Do I think it’s untoward or wrong or anything like that? Nah. I really don’t have an opinion on it. But I would like to know more about how the process works. And that’s all I was trying to get at.

    As for your contention that I’m hiding behind the “kids we talk to say it,” I think you understand why they and their parents and coaches are hesitant to say anything to us on the record. They don’t want to burn bridges.

    Again, thanks for your commenting here. This sort of discussion is very helpful for me.

  12. Thanks for responding, I think a little of what you are saying is a little more understandable upon reading some of those perspectives.

    I understand that some kids who have been offered and recruited will be concerned about how badly they are wanted when coaches offer other kids at the same position. Coach Knight used to recruit very few kids per position. Coach K used to be well known for it after the landscape changed. Now he’s recruiting four point guards for one 2010 pg spot while just a few years ago Duke’s thing was they only offered one or two kids per spot. Irving and MacCallum are two of them. Unless a coach has a bead on someone and doesn’t want to scare them off they usually offer multiple kids. Crean won’t offer Reggie Smith or Levonte Dority until he gets the impression that Kyrie Irving is likely becoming wide open or favoring someone else. But no other kid in that class that IU has offered has made IU out to be their favorite so he’s likely going to chase as many as he can until someone gives him reason to zero in. The lack of an April evaluation period is a big change in this. By the end of July kids are going to know which team wants them the most relative to other kids by whom the coach watches play.

    The 2011 stuff is tough for Crean. I suspect he will overcommit in that class. Last year he had at least one player who told him he wouldn’t be back (who he ended up getting to stay anyway when there was room from other kids leaving) and he had at least three others he had to re-recruit and lost two. There were rumors that Rivers dad would pony up if he had to but considering other avenues were in place I doubt that was seriously considered. If he’d found a way to add a star late like Dominc Cheek who he pursued maybe something like that would’ve been pursued. There was also some talk that Tijan Jobes would be elligible for an academic scholarship from the business school (which would’ve meant he couldn’t play but got to stay at IU). There were several contingencies.

    With 2011 know that he’d overcommit this far out. Next summer it might change, but it depends on the situation and the availability of contingency plans, etc. But you can only overcommit by 1 so he won’t be taking more than 1 kid unless a ride opens up. He might reasonbly suspect the loser of the PT battle between Capo/Elston/Pritchard would think about leaving if Bawa develops into a starter at center by his soph year. He might reasonably think a younger guard who falls behind the pecking order might be hard to keep. But with 13 or 14 kids in play he has a lot of ways to find contingencies with kids on the team. Most of the time like last year the real story won’t be public. It would be embarssing for most kids to do like Donnie Hale and say if they don’t find a ride I’ll have to prep. But that doesn’t mean someone won’t have agreed to it. Its not hard to find one or two ways to restack the deck if he has to.

    If Etherington commits soon, I’m sure he’d still take a commitment from Teague. He has two rides available. He could still use a 2010 ride on Irving or Jones or Poole or whomever and shift one to 2011 or take an 09 juco late like PU did with Calasan or IU did with Jobes if he finds one he thinks can help.

    Would he in theory fill up on rides, overcommit by one and then get a shot at an elite player and push it over a reasonable limit? Probably if the player is special. I don’t think IU has ever been so strong that they’d turn away a chance to bring in a really special player. But once you fill up it gets a lot harder to land kids like that. Kids like Jobes and Roth are Indiana Elite. David Williams is Atlanta Celtics. The kids people think will get pushed out will never be thrown out. Those are key relationships.

    I shouldn’t waste time talking more scenarios. But the bottom line for me is that he’s not offering any more kids than is common. If he can’t give them the attention they want they’ll go elsewhere. But he’s got open rides for any class right now. So thinking about moving kids off is extremely hypothetical. He needs to get someone to say yes, then that stuff starts to clarify. But right now he could take 2 kids in any class and not even have to overcommit.

    IU doesn’t have a scholarship crunch while we have two available. Then if there is over the limit type of confusion these questions become legitimate. But every school has a lot of offers out and won’t get many kids to say yes. I do think Crean would take Teague or Irving even if he didn’t know how it would fill up. But that sort of thing is just how it always has worked regardless of overcommiting or not. Coaches also put a lot of pressure on the kids on the bottom of the pecking order if they aren’t working as hard as the kids on the top. We’ve seen that in Twitter. Three kids we know he wants to be on the team were called out for not working as hard as the rest of the team. It isn’t a black and white line.

    But for now, and since Crean has been here, this kind of thing has taken up a lot of bandwith for something totally unrelated to IU’s situation. We need players and have open spots.

  13. Chris M,

    I too am relaxed. I just think you’re inferring some things that aren’t really there. Again, no one is questioning whether making a lot of offers is ethical or not, and no one is confused by it.

    This article, and Korman’s question, was in regards to actually signing players, and how you can successfully recruit a player without guaranteeing that he technically has a spot open. He’s not claiming that Crean is ready to run anyone off, nor is he saying that he has done that. He wasn’t bad-mouthing Crean or the program. I really think it was just an innocent question that Crean perceived as offensive or inappropriate.

    I think it’s a conversation worth having, and something a lot of fans are interested in — anything involving recruiting usually falls under that category.

    And for the record, I have no actual qualms with you or your opinion, I just enjoy a healthy debate. I’m sure you’re relaxed and enjoying your friday just like I am. Take care.

  14. Casey,

    Yeah I went back and read my comments and they sound a little more terse than I thought. I should self-edit a little more. I didn’t mean to sound harsh but I still think Crean should be expected to be taken aback by suggestions that his recruiting is misleading or that he’s not being above board somehow.

    From his perspective I believe he thinks he tells them all the truth and would gladly take a kid he’s offered up on a commitment. He also doesn’t do like OSU and put the screws to younger kids to get them to commit right away on vists. He knows he’s recruited against people who were quoted in that article who are dishonest with recruits in some cases and break rules in others.

    So this is probably a pie in the face when he expects a pat on the back pretty much. But I am sorry if I sounded harsh in the face of a perspective which I disagree with or understand differently. I don’t think its likely Crean or many coaches will be in position to run kids off. I think its mostly just a hot button issue that gets latched on by the handful of rival coaches who like to talk badly about other programs instead of promote their own. Coaches have never needed overcommitments to run kids off and they can easily manage overcommitments without running kids off if they choose to.

    Sorry if I sounded mean to Mr Korman, I didn’t think I was being mean at all when I responded and even re-reading it don’t think that I was too bad (I hope).

  15. Chris M,

    No, I don’t think you were being mean — just voicing what you believed to be the correct opinion.

    I will say that I’m glad Crean sticks to his guns and that he won’t hesitate to let his passion for success show. I think the original question that spawned this small controversy was asked more out of curiosity and for the purpose of clarification, and was not intended to imply that anyone believes Crean is doing anything wrong, shady or unethical.

    Crean is a great, outgoing man, but it is also apparent that when it comes to protecting the image and reputation of his staff, his team and himself, he’s not messing around. I’m glad to see that. He’s got that hard-line, Bob Knight-ish approach to how he manages the game (minus the temper issues and sometimes questionable conduct) that will endear him to a lot of IU fans. It’ll come in handy down the road.

    Always good to have a civil discussion.

  16. I just saw Korman’s article today and the discussion. I found the discussion very helpful. Thanks to all who contributed because I feel some of you put a lot of thought into it. We haven’t had a coach like Crean who makes a lot of offerings to prospects. Like Korman, I have been wondering how this works. Coach Crean didn’t want to explain his recruiting techniques and I don’t think any other coaches would explain their long range or short range options among their offerings. IU is making offerings to some top flight prospects and Crean knows from our recent past performances, we are facing tough competition from other coaches. No question in my mind that Crean has made some great progress in getting this program moving forward.

  17. Chris is right and it does not matter that the urgency of IU’s situation calls for “special” consideration to the ethics of recruiting.

    Sadly, some Indiana fans are in full denial and still justifying corrupt recruiting behavior. If IU makes an offer, a scholarship must be made available to that student. It is even possible that failure to do so would breach a verbally legal contract between the student and the University.

    More important, there can be no hedging on the lessons learned from the Kelvin Sampson experience. The argument posed by some readers here applies the exact same logic used by Kelvin Sampson to justify his ethically questionable behavior.

    Indiana University does not need that; not now not ever. Nor can IU even consider the morally reprehensible argument that “others” (Kentucky, the SEC, Calipari) do it.

    Chris’ instincts are valid. Extending more offers than the number of scholarships available is not just confusing…it borders on dishonest and corrupt.

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