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Big Ten coaches question new recruiting rules

CHICAGO -- What’s the hurry?
That’s what some Big Ten coaches wanted to know with the NCAA Board of Directors poised to vote Thursday on emergency approval for new recommendations for the rules governing football recruiting.
Purdue coach Joe Tiller feels the new rules and process for installing them represent a knee-jerk reaction by the NCAA.
The package, approved Thursday, will be examined by member schools, with an initial vote on making it permanent expected in January 2005 and a final vote in April. The rules will be in place for the upcoming academic year on a trial basis.
“I absolutely feel that it was a knee-jerk reaction,” Purdue coach Joe Tiller said. “Our normal process has not been followed. Since I have been around as a head coach, it seems like to change legislation in the NCAA is like pulling teeth, and there are plusses and minuses to that. Sometimes you’d like to speed it up, but usually when they get it done, they get it done the right way.”
Intended to take the “celebrity” out of the recruiting race, the new guidelines call for colleges and universities to use commercial airlines and coach airfares to fly athletes to campus, lodge them in "standard" accommodations and serve them reasonable meals. No more private jets, resort hotels or extravagant meals.
Tiller understands there have been some highly publicized incidents that inspired the proposed regulations, but he doesn’t feel the problems have reached an epidemic level that warrant the emergency vote.
“I think there have been abuses, but I am not sure they are rampant,” Tiller said. “I know talking to coaches in our conference, that it is not occurring in our conference. In fact, I think that if you eliminated a dozen schools from the process, this would be a moot point. We wouldn’t even be discussing it, and it wouldn’t even be up for legislation.”
Indiana coach Gerry DiNardo agreed.
“Most families and young people honor the process and do a much better job with the process than, perhaps, the country perceives,” DiNardo said. “Now, more parents are involved. I believe recruiting has gotten better, not worse. If it were to change drastically, I would be disappointed.”
Tiller was quick to admit he probably has more of a problem than most with the proposed changes because of Purdue’s location.
“One of my pet peeves is the airplane issue, because of where we are,” Tiller said. “It’s all relative. We’re not in a metropolitan area; we can’t fly anyone into our town because we lost our commercial service. So, unless some part of the legislation is going to take that into account, I think some of it is a real, real handicap to allowing certain schools to be competitive.”
Still, Tiller is all for taking the celebrity out of recruiting.
“I think some schools truly have abused that and really gone for that ‘wow’ factor, and I am against that,” he said. “I don’t support anything that excessive. But if it is just from a logistic standpoint, to get a recruit from Point A to Point B, that is something everyone should have the opportunity to do.”
Tiller added: “One thing that has helped us is we have a school of aviation technology, so we have a couple of planes which are prop planes that seat about six people. They are not Gulfstream Jets. We can get a can of pop on there and an energy bar … that’s the meal. But it has allowed us to get in the game where we were out of the game when it came to recruiting players.”
Penn State coach Joe Paterno says he has never lost a recruit because another program wooed him with fancy hotels and private jets.
Like Purdue, Penn State is in a remote location in State College, Pa., but coach Joe Paterno has no problem with the changes.
“We’ve never had any problem with the recruiting rules,” Paterno said. “We don’t put recruits in fancy hotels or fly them in on jets. When we bring kids to campus on recruiting trips we put them in the dorms and they sleep on cots. I’ve never lost a kid in all my years at Penn State because someone kept them in a fancy hotel and we kept them in dorms. I have no problem with the (new) rules.”
Another of the changes requires each school to have written guidelines for behavior when recruits visit campus. These visiting guidelines would need to be approved by an independent committee set up to monitor recruiting visits.
“But then at the end, the last sentence is that the university shall be held accountable for the behavior of the recruit,” Tiller said. “And I’m thinking, ‘why isn’t the recruit held accountable?’ He comes on your campus and the university is held accountable for his actions? The pendulum has swung way too far one way in terms of accountability. You can say they are too young, but there comes a point in all of our lives when we need to be held accountable for our actions. If we’re never held accountable for our actions, well, chaos will reign.”
Regardless of the implications that it has on a players’ responsibility, Minnesota coach Glen Mason said coaches are always held responsible for the actions of players and recruits anyway, so tougher rules to take the celebrity out of recruiting will only be a good thing.
“I don’t think the measures they took are quite that big,” Mason said. “I was in favor, to be quite honest, of shortening the official visit to one overnight stay. I have always been nervous about taking high school kids, for a weekend, under our supervision and putting them in a college setting. Let’s face it, some of these kids have a distorted view of themselves. They think they are the biggest, baddest guy who has ever come down the road. Things are going to happen you can’t control.”
Big Ten coaches, and those across the country, will have more control and standardized regulations. And it will come sooner rather than later, even if they weren’t sure they needed it.