On Wednesday night, October 5, 2011, Assistant Men's Basketball Coach Tim Buckley advised Head Coach Tom Crean that Coach Crean could have off-campus contact the next day (Thursday, October 6) with 2012 prospective student-athlete [Gary Harris's name redacted] at [Gary's] high school, which subsequently occurred. Buckley had mistakenly believed that Thursday was the last day of the contact period. In fact, Thursday was the first day of the evaluation period. Coach Buckley realized the mistake on Thbursday 6th, shortly after the contact had occurred, during a conversation with another IU basketball coach about telephone calls. The incident was immediately reported that same day (Oct. 6)) to the compliance office by Coach Buckley (in person) and Coach Crean (by telephone). The compliance office contacted the Big Ten and NCAA regarding this incident on that same day (Oct. 6).
So, what do I think of all this? I'm mad. I'm annoyed that I have to be writing this post instead of previewing the basketball season or IU's upcoming football game against Wisconsin (okay, this is probably better than that). I understand that the NCAA rule book is an arcane mess with confusing and overlapping provisions. Still, dates like this have to be ingrained in the coaching staff's heads and, preferably, installed as alerts on their calendars. I am in a deadline- and date-driven profession, and I understand that these things happen. Apparently, per the NCAA's report, Tim Buckley is responsible for monitoring those things. And that's fine. But as an attorney, while I may rely upon a secretary or paralegal to keep track of and calendar deadlines and events for me, the responsibility is mine. In this case, the buck stops at coach Crean's desk. Very early in my career, I was given some excellent advice by an experienced attorney, and that was that I never should tell a judge or another attorney that a mistake was a secretary or paralegal's fault, even if it actually was the secretary or paralegal's fault. That's not to say that I would lie if asked for details of what had gone wrong, but simply that my subordinates' mistakes were my mistakes. I'm not saying Coach Crean has done that--providing all details to the NCAA is important--but ultimately, Crean is the one with the most skin in the game, and he needs to be on top of that stuff.
All that said, I expect quite a bit of chortling from West Lafayette, and especially from Lexington, where some message board posters put down the moonshine long enough to find out about this stuff before the media did. In light of that, let's keep a few things straight: this was sloppy, annoying, inexcusable, whatever. But the violation occurred on October 6. Crean and Buckley reported it to the compliance office on October 6. The IU compliance office orally reported this to the NCAA on October 6. Expect to hear Kelvin Sampson's name quite a bit over the next few days. Nonsense. Minor violations happen. This is exactly the way to handle them. It's when minor violations accumulate, aren't reported, and are covered up, that they become major violations. Unfortunately, IU is still on probation, until late November, for the Sampson issue. I don't know if that will make a difference. But this incident doesn't have any meaningful impact on my confidence in Crean, his staff, and the athletic department staff. I'm sure some will argue that it was intentional. The timeline above makes clear the likelihood of that.
On the other hand, perhaps I should go easy on the Boilers and the Wildcats. Who needs enemies when IU has friends like Eamonn Brennan? Brennan, a fine writer, an IU alum, and one of the founders of excellent IU basketball site Inside the Hall, said a couple of weeks ago, about John Calipari.
Oh, and one more thing: When the Duke story was reported and quickly dismissed as minor, I had a score of emailers and chatters from Big Blue Nation insist that Calipari would have been excoriated if anyone ever found he committed a similar violation.
Well, here you go, guys: If Calipari did what Kyles said he did, oh well. Duke, Kentucky, Northern State Tech, whoever -- minor recruiting violations are universally worthy of our apathy. It's something to keep an eye on, but based on what we know, there won't be -- nor should there be -- any major fallout in the weeks to come.
But now that it's about IU, Eamonn is posting from the fainting couch.
According to Forde's story, the school explained the visit as a calendar mixup -- the classic case of an assistant coach mistakenly telling a head coach he was clear to visit a recruit on the wrong date. That explanation is difficult to buy, because the Oct. 5 date is not exactly obscure. It's a hard and fast fact of recruiting life.
The question, then, is why violate a rule that every coach knows like the back of his hand? If you're going to run adrift of the rules in search of a recruiting advantage -- if you're going to cheat -- why do it like this? People notice when the Indiana coach shows up at a high school in Indianapolis. They send emails. Those emails get back to people who know when the contact period ends. Those people start poking around.
Why take the risk at all? Is Crean feeling the pressure of his job, the expectations of the fans, and acting irrationally as a result? Is he worried the Hoosiers are considered longshots behind rivals Michigan State, Purdue and Kentucky for the services of Harris? Or -- as the school has asserted -- was he just being careless?
Come on, Eamonn. This is why it's nice to read a report rather than someone else's summary of a report. It's disappointing and inexcusable that they screwed up the date, but I'm in a profession where people have lost multimillion dollar cases, or missed deadlines for filing motions that would have ended multimillion dollar cases, by being a day late. It happens. What's harder for me to believe is that Tom Crean, with ill intent, met with Gary Harris at his high school, and then promptly reported it to the compliance office, and indirectly the NCAA, on the same day. Speculating about Crean's state of mind is unseemly without having talked to anyone or having seen a primary source. If Crean should be feeling pressure anywhere, it's on the practice court, not on the recruiting trail, where IU still has the nation's top 2012 class, and not even enough room for the guys we have.
This is bad, it's disappointing, but in the long term, it's not going to be more than a bump in the road.