With the NCAA and their pet pupil Pete Thamel sniffing around the recruitments of Nerlens Noel and Shabazz Muhammad, John Calipari has one suggestion for cleaning up the corruption in college basketball recruiting: get rid of unofficial visits.
Unofficial visits allow players to visit schools prior to their senior year, in which they are allowed to take five official visits before the signing period in November. With coaches recruiting players earlier and earlier, families who can afford to take their child to visit schools unofficially give their child (and the schools interested) a huge advantage. What if a family can’t afford to travel across the country from campus to campus? Third parties often step in to help make it happen, and that’s where things get shady and how recruits get into trouble with the NCAA.
To their credit, the NCAA has tried to make things easier, passing a rule earlier this summer that will allow high school players to start taking official visits earlier, after January 1st of their junior year, but many think it’s not enough. In an interview with The Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy, John Calipari suggested banning unofficial visits altogether, arguing they give some recruits an unfair advantage:
“Get rid of all unofficial visits,” Kentucky coach John Calipari told Sporting News on Thursday. “It’s not fair to the kid who doesn’t have the means to make all these trips.”
Eliminating unofficial visits altogether would certainly nip opportunities for violations in the bud, but you can’t exactly forbid a recruit from visiting a public place. The NCAA can, however, regulate how the visits go down. For now, unofficial visits aren’t much different than official visits. Recruits get VIP treatment, including tours of the facilities, visits to practice, and the opportunity to meet the team. DeCourcy suggests that recruits should get the same treatment as any other student: a good ole fashioned tour of campus from a perky upperclassman. No contact with coaches, no fun game of pool with the team, or tours of the new Wildcat Coal Lodge.
DeCourcy’s piece says “Noel never made an unofficial visit to Kentucky but did travel to other campuses,” which is contrary to Pete Thamel’s article last week, which says Noel made unofficial visits to Louisville, Kentucky and Syracuse. The NCAA is also investigating Shabazz Muhammad’s unofficial visits to Duke and North Carolina. The odds of the NCAA eliminating or instituting new policies on unofficial visits are slim right now, but it’s good to know that Cal recognizes the risks involved and is playing the game accordingly.