Recruiting Violation at Duke?
Coach K’s potentially impermissible phone call is causing a stir.
by Jon Jaques / @JJaques25
So Coach K isn’t the only perfect human being on the planet. Or maybe he still is. Either way, the somewhat confusing revelation that Mike Krzyzewski may have committed a recruiting violation on the summer AAU circuit this past July has turned some heads and ignited some barking on the web (it is Duke, after all).
The matter, or player, in question is 6-7 top-100 forward Alex Poythress. The 2012 recruit said in a recent interview with CBSsports.com that the Duke coaching legend offered him a scholarship over the phone during last week’s AAU Super Showcase event in Orlando. This set off alarms from Durham all the way to the Omni-present NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis: if Krzyzewski did indeed call Poythress during an event which his team, the Georgia Stars, was playing in at the time, then a secondary violation was committed.
But the matter is not that black and white (is it ever?). Duke NCAA compliance staff checked into the situation. Blue Devil officials sought clarification on the ambiguous rule they were possibly guilty of perpetrating. Some digging by ESPN and others revealed that Coach K did indeed call Poythress, but only after the Georgia Stars was already eliminated from the tournament.
But Poythress was still in Orlando and still playing basketball. Like most AAU teams do this time of year, the Stars loaded up their summer schedule. After finishing the AAU Summer Showcase, the Stars took Wednesday off to rest for the AAU Nationals. Here’s the thing: the AAU Nationals are also in Orlando—on the exact same site as the Summer Showcase.
So in other words, even though the team was still on the road, Poythress was technically not involved in any tournament the night of Coach K’s phone call.
So is Duke guilty of breaching the NCAA’s long and often hypocritical code of conduct if Poythress was in between events?
Does it matter?
Duke is obviously doing everything it can to keep its clean compliance record intact. The whole point of their pow-wow with the NCAA officials is to exploit the haziness of the rule (NCAA bylaw 22.214.171.124.2, for those keeping score) and contend that being on the road is separate from actually being in a tournament (not sure I buy that splitting of hairs, but I respect Duke for trying).
Duke will either get off scot-free or get a slap on the wrist. So what’s the fuss?
Some in the college basketball media world are erupting over a perceived favoritism towards Duke in the coverage of this phone call. The claim is that the Duke-happy media is making every effort to clear the name of Duke while being over-eager to smear the name of more controversial universities.
It does seem likely that that if this were John Calipari, Jim Calhoun, or some less glorified coach under the microscope, there wouldn’t be so much compassion for the perpetrator. If Coach K is not taken to the guillotine after all of this, the real extremists will surely point to Michigan State’s Tom Izzo one-game suspension last season for a similar “contact-rule” violation as evidence of a pro-Duke bias among the media and the NCAA higher ups.
What’s my opinion, you ask? A stupid rule is a stupid rule. Legislation like this one is ridiculous, confusing, and begs to be broken. If esteemed, historically clean coaches like Izzo and Krzyzewski are making silly violations, you know this section of the rulebook is lacking clarity.
But even though it’s by far the most interesting thing I’ve seen to come out of this story so far, the media bias angle is way overblown. The fact is it’s much easier to pursue other schools’ dirt than it is chase down Duke’s. Plus, what are reporters supposed to do? Tear down the Duke establishment because of a phone call that will probably end up being legal?
Call me delusional, but I think if there were enough smoke billowing out of Duke, the media would still go sprinting in search of the fire. The smoke just isn’t there. Duke may be the national media’s darling, but the basketball program is not above NCAA scandal.
Jon Jaques is a former starter for the Cornell Big Red and former forward for Israel’s Ironi Ashkelon club.