The NCAA is always trying to clean up college hoops and the sport's recruiting process.
The latest example of this came back in January, when the NCAA announced their intention to close some of the loopholes that had been found. One of those loopholes was the concept of a package deal. Essentially, a package deal is when an adult -- a coach, a trainer, a relative -- latches on to a recruit, and in order for a school to land that recruit, they hire that adult to "work" with the team. There are tons of examples of this -- Kansas hired Mario Chalmers' father, Memphis hired Tyreke Evans' trainer, etc.
Here is the exact text of the new rule, known as Bylaw 220.127.116.11:
Individual Associated with a Prospective Student-Athlete -- Men's Basketball. In men's basketball, during a two-year period before a prospective student-athlete's anticipated enrollment and a two-year period after the prospective student-athlete's actual enrollment, an institution shall not employ (or enter into a contract for future employment with) an individual associated with the prospective student-athlete in any athletics department noncoaching staff position.
This rule has come under a bit of scrutiny this week thanks to Tim Floyd. Floyd has never been one to shy away from recruiting's grey areas. We all have heard about OJ Mayo and the envelope stuffed with benjis, but that is far from the only way Floyd has wooed recruits. In fact, package deals seem to be a favorite of Floyd's. Back in 2005 when Floyd first got the USC job, he twice made package deals. He hired Gil Arnold, the head coach at the College of Southern Idaho, and Shaun Davis and Abdoulaye Ndiaye followed. He then hired Rudy Hackett as his strength and conditioning coach. Rudy was joined at USC by his son Daniel Hackett.
This offseason, Floyd landed the head coaching job at UTEP, and he is back up to his old tricks.
For college basketball fans, you may have never heard the name Rashanti Harris before, but its a certainty that recruitniks have. Harris was a top 30 national recruit and the 2008 Mr. Basketball in Mississippi before heading to Georgia State, of all places. But Harris could never get eligible there, and after sitting out the 2009-2010 season, he decided to transfer to UTEP.
Is it any coincidence that William Small, the man that recruited Harris to Georgia State, was also hired by UTEP?
Floyd also landed former HEAT Academy teammates Michael Haynes and Desmond Lee. Haynes, a 6'7" forward, was the real prize, spurning interest from Duke, Texas, and UCLA. Floyd then hired Jason Niblett, the head coach and founder of HEAT Academy (for a good read, check out this Washington Post profile of the school that outsourced education), which has earned Floyd a lot of negative backlash.
Here's the interesting thing, however -- so long as Small and Niblett are named assistant coaches and aren't given an operations position, these are completely legal hires. The rule says that package deals are legal so long as the person hired isn't given "any athletics department noncoaching staff position." Clearly, these hires go against the spirit of the rule put into place, but the spirit of the rule and the letter of the law are two completely different things. We have learned this the hard way.
Part of the problem the NCAA has is that they don't want to completely eliminate a pathway for a high school coach to become a college coach. Take Danny Hurley, for example. Hurley was the head coach at St. Benedict's Prep in New Jersey before making the jump to Wagner College. If he landed some of his higher rated high school players at Wagner, couldn't that technically be considered a package deal?
Ok, that is a bit of a stretch, but my point is that the best high school coaches are going to be coaching the best high school players. If one of these high school coaches were to get a D1 offer, it would be for two reasons -- their ability to coach, and their ability to recruit based on their connections at the high school level. If the NCAA did away with package deals all together, that pathway for high school coaches to college would be eliminated.
My question is whether Floyd actually did anything wrong here.
Sure, it looks sketchy. I can't disagree. But William Small is a talented enough recruiter that he got Harris, a four star recruit, to come to Georgia State along with a nother three-star recruit. If he is landing top 30 players at Georgia State, what kind of recruits can he land at UTEP? While Harris was a nice bonus for Floyd, doesn't it stand to reason that Small wasn't going to be at Georgia State too much longer?
Jason Niblett ran a basketball factory that sent eight guys to the D1 level this year. The WaPo article linked earlier mentions his connections to coaches overseas, specifically Australia, and it stands to reason that he has plenty of connections to high school and AAU coaches stateside if he was landing that kind of talent. He also played D1 basketball himself and spent six years playing professionally in France. Its safe to assume that he has a significant amount of basketball knowledge.
Being a successful college basketball program is based on your ability to recruit. Based on their resumes, one can assume that these two guys are going to be able to recruit for Floyd. Recruiting is based on connections. Kansas State lands a lot of players from teh DC Metro area because of Dalone Hill's connections.
Is that considered dirty or unethical? Truth be told, how much different is what is happening at Kansas State and what happened at UTEP? And keep in mind, Floyd did nothing illegal.
I'm not a Tim Floyd fan by any stretch of the imagination. I think UTEP was moronic for hiring him. I think the way he runs his programs is despicable. I think package deals should be eliminated from college basketball.
But these two hirings are different than your typical package deal.
This isn't the hiring of Mario Chalmers' father or Tyreke Evans' trainer. These are two coaches that got offered better jobs and brought their players with them.
When a head coach gets a better job, and he brings along his players or recruits, is that considered a package deal as well?