The talk of package deals has been all of the buzz in Big Blue Nation the past few weeks. Between the Jones/Okafor and Johnson/Winslow packages, most of us are going to have nightmares when we see a UPS package let alone an actual recruiting package deal. There is another “package deal” sweeping the recruiting nation, and it’s tough to believe it can be called “clean recruiting.”
I am referring to the recent rash of package deals involving family and friends of high level recruits. Today was perhaps the most obvious example of this package deal. Isaiah Whitehead, a shooting guard ranked top 25 nationally, committed to the Seton Hall Pirates today. Seton Hall is not what most would call a likely destination for a 5-star recruit. Surprise, surprise, there is a major catch in this recruitment. Conveniently, Whitehead’s high school coach, Tiny Morton, is being offered a job as an assistant coach at Seton Hall. This is technically legal by the completely flawed NCAA Rulebook, but the hiring is not supposed to entirely hinge on the commitment of the recruit. It is pretty difficult to prove that the hiring was entirely contingent on the commitment, making this a tough violation to confirm. Sure, Seton Hall used a legal tactic by the book to land a top recruit, but does that make it right? It is nearly a pay-for- play situation with Seton Hall pulling a massive favor for someone extremely close to Whitehead as long as he decided to play at Seton Hall. Let’s be perfectly clear, Tiny Morton would not even sniff this job if it was not for Whitehead being a Seton Hall recruit.
Isaiah Whitehead is not the only example of this tactic this season. Seton Hall has actually done this twice in one recruiting class. Angel Delgado, who was looked at by the Kentucky staff at one time, committed to play for Seton Hall, but, of course, Oliver Antigua is closely tied to Delgado via the Dominican Republic national team. It doesn’t stop with coaches either. The well documented recruitment of Emmanuel Mudiay included a deal like this. Mudiay’s brother was given a scholarship to play basketball at SMU after minor contributions to his junior college team last season.
This is not a new practice of course. Even our very own John Calipari has used this practice in the past to lure DaJuan Wagner to Memphis. It’s pretty shocking that the NCAA, an institution that has rules against an athlete washing their car with university water, would allow something as blatant as this to occur. Hiring high school coaches with close ties to a recruit is a pretty shady tactic considering it’s basically paying a close friend of the recruit. Obviously, the school is going to take a huge bump in the recruit’s eyes if they are willing to pay a solid salary to someone closely tied to them.
I cannot see John Calipari pulling this tactic at Kentucky because he has such an outstanding staff that no single recruit would be valuable enough to replace his coaches. If he was open to doing this, he probably would have done it with Wiggins. However, this recruitment move has already played against Calipari’s hand in the past with Mudiay, and it would be foolish to believe a school will not try a similar move in the future with a recruit that Kentucky is recruiting. These shady hirings are going to continue until the NCAA implements a rule to stop it. If the NCAA stops concerning themselves with hashtags on football fields and banning coaches from high school practices, maybe they can concoct a way to stop recruitments turning into a battle of hiring high school coaches and giving scholarships to players with underwhelming statistics.