October 12, 2011
If most coaches visited a recruit the day after the fall contact period ended, it would be a minor violation that wouldn't be especially newsworthy.
That it's Indiana's Tom Crean who apparently broke the rules makes this a slightly more significant story.
According to ESPN.com, Indiana has self-reported a secondary NCAA rules violation that occurred when Crean visited elite class of 2012 guard Gary Harris at his high school in Indianapolis last Thursday. The contact period for recruits ended the previous day, so Thursday was the first day of the evaluation period, during which coaches may watch a recruit play but "cannot have any in-person conversations with the possible recruit or the parents off the college's campus."
The apparent violation comes at a time when Indiana is in the final two months of a three-year probation stemming from the impermissible phone calls Kelvin Sampson made during his tenure as Hoosiers coach. Indiana is still trying to reclaim its former place among college basketball's elite after the program suffered three straight losing seasons as a result of the player exodus in the wake of Sampson's firing.
Word of Crean's mistake first surfaced on several Kentucky-themed blogs and message boards a few days ago. Indiana officials have said they alerted the NCAA 15 minutes after the incident but didn't make the self-report public until Tuesday.
Because Indiana is still on probation, the NCAA's committee on infractions has the right to extend the probation or levy further sanctions. The committee could show lenience since Indiana gained only a minimal advantage and reported it immediately, but there's definitely reason for the Hoosiers to be at least slightly nervous.
The date the contact period ends is an aspect of the recruiting calendar ingrained in most coaches heads, so skeptics will have trouble swallowing Indiana's argument that this was an innocent mistake. The Hoosiers by all accounts trail rivals Michigan State, Purdue and Kentucky in the race to land Harris, meaning an argument could be made that Crean was bending the rules in an attempt to make up ground.
Ultimately, however, this is still a minor violation committed by dozens of coaches around the nation each year without penalty.
In an era of rampant cheating and blatant disregard in college basketball, Crean's mistake hardly compares to tales of agents, coaches or boosters paying recruits. Nonethless, it doesn't excuse the Hoosiers for being reckless at a time when they of all people should be extra vigilant.