Did Coach K commit recruiting violation? Will the NCAA care?

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's Hall of Fame career has been highlighted by championships and a relentless record of getting results without going outside the well-defined NCAA regulatory boundaries. In his 37-year coaching career, Krzyzewski has never officially been cited for an NCAA recruiting violation, or any other notable infraction, for that matter.

Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski
Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski

Like him or hate him, the man is squeaky clean.

That may be about to change because of his communication with a Class of 2012 four-star recruit on Tuesday. According to CBSSports.com, Coach K officially extended a scholarship offer to Clarksville (Tenn.) Northeast High power forward Alex Poythress on Tuesday night.

"It felt pretty good," Poythress told CBSSports.com on Thursday. "It was pretty exciting to talk to Coach K. He said he saw me play at the Super Showcase and Peach Jam, and he liked what he saw."

Normally, that wouldn't be a major news story. After all, there's nothing unusual about a Rivals150 recruit who has scholarship offers from the likes of UConn, Kentucky, Florida and other top programs adding an offer from Duke. There's just one catch: Krzyzewski gave Poythress his offer while the rising senior was still competing at an AAU event, and NCAA regulations specifically prohibit contact between coaches and players during such events.

As pointed out by KentuckySportsRadio.com, the following regulations apply to contact between coaches and players while all AAU events are ongoing. The passage from NCAA bylaws that you see below comes from the Bylaw Blog, which specializes in making sense out of the NCAA regulations which sometimes colloquially sound like, well, nonsense.

In this case, the NCAA bylaws in question are Bylaws and, which are spelled out in full right here. And here's the original source for the explanatory paragraph below.

The academic and membership affairs staff confirmed that after a prospect reports on call to travel with his team at the beginning of an extended road trip that occurs during the July evaluation period, it is not permissible for an institution's coaching staff member to have any type of communication with the prospect, the prospect's parents or legal guardians, the prospect's coach or any individual associated with the prospect as a result of the prospect's participation in basketball [except for telephone contact with a prospect's high-school coach (or administraton) who is not in attendance at the prospect's events] until the prospect is released by the appropriate authorities after the completion of the team's final competition of the road trip.

What that passage means -- and what other college basketball writers like The Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy seemed to agree to on Twitter -- is that Krzyzewski would only be allowed to make contact with a prospect like Poythress after his team was eliminated from a tournament.

That wasn't the case on Tuesday, as Poythress' Georgia Stars AAU squad continued competing at the event through Wednesday evening. In fact, the Georgia Stars were still competing at the Super Showcase and AAU Nationals in Orlando as of Thursday afternoon, when ScoutsFocus editor Joe Davis interviewed Poythress about his recent Duke offer and his performance on the summer AAU circuit, culminating in the video you see directly below.

A video or other embedded content has been hidden. Click here to view it.

The following schedules from the Super Showcase and AAU Nationals show that the Georgia Stars continued to compete at the event, with Poythress still in attendance throughout the team's run. The Georgia Stars are in Pool G of this bracket, and played at 1:20 on Wednesday afternoon. Similarly, this schedule shows the Stars playing Tuesday night at 7:20 p.m. ... after Poythress' conversation with Krzyzewski had allegedly already occurred.

According to Poythress, Coach K actually called a Georgia Stars coach, who then told Poythress to call Krzyzewski himself. The prep star did that, and Coach K answered, had a conversation with the power forward and offered him a scholarship. While that might have made the Duke coach feel that he was safe since he didn't place the call himself, that typically matters little when it comes to contact in the eyes of the NCAA. According to NCAA statutes -- or at least the interpretation of those statutes by a handful of different writers and at least one NCAA high major conference assistant coach -- Coach K is probably in the wrong for answering the call at all.

Of course, according to the excerpted NCAA statute above, Coach K was also probably committing a violation by calling the Georgia Stars coach, too. That is clearly spelled out within the bylaws as well, and the same high major NCAA assistant coach confirmed to a Prep Rally source that what the Duke coach did was -- at least in his view -- a clear violation.

When reached for comment, Duke Associated Director of Athletics for Media Relations & Public Affairs issued the following statement:

"In all rules matters brought to our attention, the Duke Compliance Department exercises due diligence in determining the relevant facts of a given situation. Proper adherence to NCAA bylaws has always been, and will continue to be, a cornerstone of Duke Athletics."

Whether the timing of Coach K's offer becomes a larger problem for Duke remains to be seen. Admittedly, the violations would be considered minor, and any subsequent punishment almost certainly would not be severe. Additionally, it's worth questioning whether the NCAA would punish arguably its most high-profile coach for what was probably a simple misunderstanding or misallocation of tournament timing.

That being said, anything is possible with the NCAA, and given the timeline of the Georgia Stars' appearances in the Orlando event, there's little question that Duke's head honcho appears to have finally stepped over a line he shouldn't have.

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