Almost two months ago now (this summer is flying, isn't it?), the Charlotte Observer published a long, well-reported story detailing the ways recruiting services siphon money from the NCAA and its basketball programs, a few thousand bucks at a time.
The scam is pretty simple: Agents and go-betweens create what they call independent scouting services. These agents/go-betweens/handlers/whatever-you-want-to-call-them also manage access to players, so if a coach like Bill Self wants a player's phone number or his address, guess what he needs to do? Buy the recruiting information. So simple, so smart, so ... unethical. The modern NCAA, folks: she's a beaut.
If that tactic is a little bit like embezzlement, then it's found a cousin today. The New York Times's Pete Thamel is next in line with the offseason recruiting stories, this time reporting about the way recruiting camps and tournaments charge $300 for a simple list of player names and numbers. From the story:
Tournament organizers and summer basketball coaches have long charged significant fees for packets of information about potential Division I recruits — player rosters, phone numbers and e-mail addresses — that are the lifeblood of the billion-dollar college basketball business. Not all packet purchases double as admission costs. But this week in Las Vegas, where five tournaments featured thousands of players, the packet costs ranged from $180 to $275, with cash being preferred.
There are plenty of good anecdotes in the story. Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings turned around and walked out of a tournament when the organizer tried to force him to buy the $295 packet. According to Stallings, tournament organizer Ryan Luttrell tried to tell Stallings it was an admissions fee; Stallings had already paid $10 at the door, and walked out of the tournament on principle. Yale coach James Jones paid $350 to watch a single game in South Carolina, because it was either that or pay $600 for the organizer's recruiting service. See? Told you they extortion cousins. Actually, maybe cousins wasn't close enough. Maybe they're more like blood brothers.
In any case, it's never enlightening to hear the AAU is taking a ton of semi-illicit money from college coaches, because, you know, obviously. But it is always enlightening to hear just how creative these AAU-ers are, and how willing to go along with them -- how scared of alienating them -- these powerful college hoops coaches really are.