[Welcome! If you are here from Mr. SEC’s link, his links are always appreciated, and he is a fine sports guy! On to business at hand…Me ? “Blame the media?” I won’t respond to Mr. SEC’s statement because you can decide for yourself, right? Thinking is necessary for 90% of my posts. If you would give me the courtesy, please consider first whether I am correct about the NCAA Rules and about simple, common experience. Then, if you decide that I blame the media, if you would, please consider whether the blame was fair? Thanks, ya’ll! SharpTusk]
Just last week CBS News along with Sports Illustrated penned “Criminal Records in College Football” (sister online article is here College Football and Crime) based upon their own self-proclaimed “unprecedented study” of football players’ “criminal records.” Arkansas’ Athletic Director Jeff Long took exception to the assertion that the University of Arkansas was validly tied for second with Iowa as the schools with the second worst problems in the SI/CBS News study:
“The Sports Illustrated/CBS News article on Top 25 football programs cited 18 members of the Razorback football team who had violated the law. While I am in no way dismissing or rationalizing the infractions, I do want the public to know the nature of those infractions.
Of the violations involving the 18 student-athletes:
–Seven were traffic violations that did not involve alcohol or any other illegal substances
–Three additional violations involved driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol
–Five involved illegal use or possession of alcohol
–Two involved marijuana possession
–One involved shoplifting
“It is worth noting that none of these violations involved any acts of violence. Unfortunately, the article placed our students in a misleading context, one which failed to distinguish the nature and severity of violations from those featured in the story.
Had “Criminal Records in College Football” been more genuine in its presentation and not padded its statistics with traffic offenses labeled “criminal,” it likely would have proven its premise. See, Critical Analysis of “Criminal Records in College Football.” and Crime In United States, Arrests, City Pop., Male Only, By Offense, 2009.
Now, CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish posted “Photo shows Arkansas coach Pelphrey violated NCAA rules” during the morning of March 10, 2011, alleging:
In a photograph obtained by CBSSports.com, Pelphrey is shown posing with Sylvan Hill High standout Archie Goodwin (a consensus top-20 national recruit) and teammate Trey Smith last December at a high school tournament in Conway, Ark. Bylaw 126.96.36.199 states that off-campus contact cannot be made with a prospect (or his relatives or legal guardians) before July 1, following the completion of his junior year of high school. Goodwin and Smith are still in their junior years of high school.
Both confirmed the authenticity of the photograph in separate phone calls with CBSSports.com and described the conversation with Pelphrey as brief. But according to the NCAA, any face-to-face encounter between a coach and a prospect that takes place at the site of an organized competition involving the prospect or the prospect’s high school is a “contact,” regardless of the conversation that occurs.
Smith told CBSSports.com that his mother took the photo.
“My mom was like, ‘Hey, go get a picture,'” Smith said. “So we snapped a picture.”
Arkansas officials issued a statement Thursday morning:
“As with any potential compliance issue, the institution will gather information and review to determine whether a violation has occurred. If, after a thorough review of the facts, it is determined a violation has occurred, the University of Arkansas will take appropriate action in reporting the information consistent with all established procedures.”
Parrish’s first mistake is that he attempts to condense an NCAA Bylaw into the blogging equivalent of a sound bite. He writes, “Bylaw 188.8.131.52 states that off-campus contact cannot be made with a prospect (or his relatives or legal guardians) before July 1, following the completion of his junior year of high school.” A summary is great. We need summaries, but when it comes to whether John Pelphrey committed a violation or not, he is held to the NCAA Bylaws as they are written with all that is in them. If the University of Arkansas decides to contest any finding of a violation, if first, the NCAA actually decides that one actually occurred, would not most people think that it is a colossal waste of time based on Mr. Parrish’s summary? On the other hand, if the NCAA found that no violation occurred, would not most people believe that the NCAA is caving to the SEC or to Arkansas?
So what has Mr. Parrish left out? To make the NCAA Bylaws effective and clear, many words and phrases in them have specific meanings so that they mean one thing if stated casually, like in a summary inside a blog entry, and something a little different when considered exactly. There is no reason to cover in detail what Mr. Parrish is correct about. Without question the encounter was off the University of Arkansas campus. David McCollum who covered First Security/John Stanton/Wampus Cat Invitational for the online version of the Log Cabin Democrat, theCabin.net, reported that the basketball tournament which included Sylvan Hills High School was held at the Buzz Bolding Arena at Conway High School. In fact, McCollum reported that John Pelphrey was in attendance at the Cat Invitational. To be truthful, being “off campus” is not the exact rule; however, as Mr. Parrish uses it, there is nothing wrong with it under these circumstances. If the same thing would have happened at Toad Suck Daze where no basketball tournament is held, then it could be a reason to decide things differently. We all have an idea of what “contact” is, but for the NCAA rules this is a loaded word.
We need a quick diversion before getting to “contact.” Parrish does not address it, but some would wonder whether John Pelphrey is permitted to watch this tournament in the first place.
184.108.40.206 (b) Observing Prospective Student-Athlete’s Contest. An athletics representative may view a prospective student-athlete’s athletics contest on his or her own initiative, subject to the understanding that the athletics representative may not contact the prospective student-athlete on such occasions…
The answer is that John Pelphrey could attend so long as he has no contact with the “prospective student-athlete.”
The rule to which Mr. Parrish refers is as follows:
220.127.116.11 Time Period for Off-Campus Contacts—General Rule.
Off-campus recruiting contacts shall not be made with an individual (or his or her relatives or legal guardians) before July 1 following the completion of his or her junior year in high school (July 7 after the junior year in high school in women’s ice hockey and July 15 after the junior year in high school in women’s gymnastics). U.S. service academy exceptions to this provision are set forth in Bylaw 13.16.1. (Revised: 1/10/91 effective 7/1/91, 1/11/94 effective 3/15/94, 1/10/95, 1/14/97 effective 5/1/97, 10/28/97, 4/26/01 effective 8/1/01, 4/29/04 effective 8/1/04, 4/28/05, 1/9/06, 2/26/07, 6/13/08, 4/30/09)
Again, watch the words. “Off-campus recruiting contacts” are prohibited which raises the question of “what is a ‘recruiting contact’?”
Recruiting is any solicitation of a prospective student-athlete or a prospective student athlete’s relatives (or legal guardians) by an institutional staff member or by a representative of the institution’s athletics interests for the purpose of securing the prospective student-athlete’s enrollment and ultimate participation in the institution’s intercollegiate athletics program.
13.02.13.1 Recruited Prospective Student-Athlete. Actions by staff members or athletics representatives that cause a prospective student-athlete to become a recruited prospective student-athlete at that institution are: (Revised: 1/10/90, 1/11/94 effective 8/1/94 for those students entering a collegiate institution on or after 8/1/94, 1/10/05 effective 8/01/05)
(a) Providing the prospective student-athlete with an official visit; (Adopted: 1/11/94 effective 8/1/94 for those students entering a collegiate institution on or after 8/1/94)
(b) Having an arranged, in-person, off-campus encounter with the prospective student-athlete or the prospective student-athlete’s parents, relatives or legal guardians; (Adopted: 1/11/94 effective 8/1/94 for those students entering a collegiate institution on or after 8/1/94)
(c) Initiating or arranging a telephone contact with the prospective student-athlete, the prospective student athlete’s relatives or legal guardians on more than one occasion for the purpose of recruitment; or (Revised:1/11/94 effective 8/1/94 for those students entering a collegiate institution on or after 8/1/94)
(d) Issuing a National Letter of Intent or the institution’s written offer of athletically related financial aid to the prospective student-athlete. Issuing a written offer of athletically related financial aid to a prospective student-athlete to attend a summer session prior to full-time enrollment does not cause the prospective student-athlete to become recruited. (Adopted: 1/10/05 effective 8/1/05, Revised: 12/13/05)
There are more defined terms in the lines above which would expand the explanation even further. Maybe Parrish is correct in believing that 18.104.22.168 is the correct rule, but if he is, where is it shown in the story that John Pelphrey made a “recruiting contact” if the story goes that John Pelphrey did not initiate the contact.
But another “contact” rule is found at Bylaw 13.02.4 and has been the rule without revision since 1994. The rule is formatted differently here without altering any words.
A contact is any face-to-face encounter between a prospective student-athlete or the prospective student-athlete’s parents, relatives or legal guardians and an institutional staff member or athletics representative during which any dialogue occurs in excess of an exchange of a greeting.
Any such face-to-face encounter that is prearranged (e.g., staff member positions himself or herself in a location where contact is possible) or that takes place on the grounds of the prospective student-athlete’s educational institution or at the site of organized competition or practice involving the prospective student-athlete or the prospective student-athlete’s high school, preparatory school, two-year college or all-star team shall be considered a contact, regardless of whether any conversation occurs.
However, an institutional staff member or athletics representative who is approached by a prospective student-athlete or the prospective student-athlete’s parents, relatives or legal guardians at any location shall not use a contact, provided the encounter was not prearranged and the staff member or athletics representative does not engage in any dialogue in excess of a greeting and takes appropriate steps to immediately terminate the encounter.(emphasis added)
Parrish leaves the explanation as a cardinal red and burnt orange issue without the last critical sentence, especially when it appears that the circumstances occurring in Conway appear to be covered by “who is approached by a prospective student athlete or the prospective student athlete’s parents…” Parrish reports that Sylvan Hills (North Little Rock) players Archie Godwin and Trey Smith “described the conversation with Pelphrey as brief.” The only apparent explanation of the encounter is:
“My mom was like, ‘Hey, go get a picture,'” Smith said. “So we snapped a picture.”
Without more details, we have John Pelphrey within the rules attending the Cat Invitational, and Trey Smith’s mother directing the two boys to stand for a picture with John Pelphrey. Circling back around to the contact rule, the second sentence specifically bars contact occurring off campus and that would be the end of the story except that the third sentence tells us that we are not done by beginning, “However…” When the student athlete or a parent initiates the contact with the school representative at any location, the rule is very specific that the representative does not have to use one of the limited number of contacts.
For the school representative, the Rule requires no more than “a greeting” be said. The rule does not dispense with common courtesy or “any contact whatsoever.” It prohibits anything more than common courtesy when the representative is approached to prevent recruiting.
The way this is described is that Trey Smith’s mom urges the boys to go up to John Pelphrey to take a picture. The three do not have their arms around each others’ shoulders like long-time friends, and Coach Pelphrey breaks a half-hearted smile at best. Mom is right there wanting the photo for her wallet, her facebook, the ladies at church, and to go whereever else she wants because she is deservedly proud of her son. Mom is taking the picture, not handing the camera off to someone she pulls from the crowd to take the photo so that there is time for John Pelphrey to manage to be courteous and to disengage. It is perfectly true that anything could have been said, but it is as equally likely that John Pelphrey did not even see these folks coming in the chaos of a high school gym after or between tournament games.
Maybe it is not this way around the United States, but here, Arkansans overcome any bashfulness they have and will go up to someone well-known and ask to snap a photo with them quickly. Frequently those who are well-known around here are also accessible. I was working in the bar at Little Rock’s Cajun’s Wharf when Bill Clinton slipped in to the edge of the bar, loosened the bow-tie on his tuxedo and promptly ordered a draft beer. No one bothered him actually. Just the other day, I ran into Judge Reinhold at Wal-Mart and on several occasions sat with U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor on Friday nights at War Memorial. I ran into Jermaine Taylor at an elementary school. My experiences are not unique.
For the most part, “contact” dominates the issue here, but be aware that “prospective student athlete” is a loaded phrase too. Mr. Parrish uses the word “prospect,” but really the word is nowhere in 22.214.171.124. In fact, to refer to the athlete who is younger than July after his junior year, the rule uses “individual.” But briefly consider that 13.02.12 defines Prospective Student-Athlete. A prospective student-athlete is a student who has started classes for the ninth grade. That is probably the rule which applies here, but it is in hopeless conflict with the last sentence of 12.02.5 Student-Athlete which provides “A student is not deemed a student-athlete solely on the basis of prior high school athletics participation.”
At some point the downside of admitting to a secondary violation has to be pitted against the costs or purposes behind fighting a finding of a violation.
Nothing about this is as clear as it seems.
NB: As pointed out by an astute reader, the current version of 126.96.36.199 was only enacted by the NCAA on 1-15-2011 and made effective immediately on the same day. It was NCAA Proposal No. 2010-27. For the purposes of this article the change made no difference. Nonetheless, all references above were made to the NCAA Rules in effect on December 2010, not the current 2010-2011 NCAA Manual.