Thursday, April 7, 2011

Eerily realistic look at a hypothetical 7-on-7 program

image Penn State Quarterbacks Coach (and son of legend JoPa) Jay Paterno’s column in lays out an eerily realistic description of a hypothetical 7-on-7 football program.

Paterno writes that his fictional program is purely hypothetical, but wonders if it may already be playing out somewhere. I believe that it has, which I’ll explain after the block quote.


The team is open to anyone on the East Coast—the prime recruiting area for UE. Warbucks makes sure the top players on the UE recruiting wish list are personally invited to try out.

Fast Frankie also starts and runs a recruiting service. With access to the top-flight recruits on his team and in his tryout, he can charge schools for his “service.” He sells performance data and contact information to the schools paying him thousands of dollars for information and inside access. All he has to do is rate the players’ abilities and send his clients information four times a year.

Frankie picks his team, the top 20 or 30 guys that UE is recruiting. In the summer the team travels the country playing in seven-on-seven tournaments as far away as Oregon, Alabama, Florida and Texas. Warbucks covers the team members’ flights, meals and hotels, and travels to every tournament along with Fast Frankie.

They talk to the players and gather information. They learn the players’ favorite schools, visits they want to take, and where UE stands with each recruit. They also discuss how well the recruits would fit into the UE program.

Most important, UE now has a direct pipeline of information from Fast Frankie and Warbucks. On each trip one of the team’s assistant coaches gets the recruits to call UE coaches during a time when NCAA coaches are not allowed to call the recruits.

This arrangement gives UE an advantage of access, influence and information over their recruiting rivals.

The best part? UE has not violated NCAA rules, and is compliant with current NCAA regulations. Potentially, seven-on-seven football will grow to rival the often-sleazy world of AAU basketball recruiting. I say potentially, but some will tell you that the horse is already out of the barn.

Go read the whole thing—it’s a great piece. While the scenario sounds like something that would present all manner of problems for college coaches and compliance officials, some of the issues are already being addressed. The scenario above would actually constitute two NCAA violations.

The first would be having a booster providing information about recruits to his school in return for payment. This is already prohibited by NCAA bylaws, and an almost identical situation occurred in Auburn University’s men’s basketball program in 2004. Since Freddie Warbucks is already defined as a booster, he is prohibited from receiving money in exchange for providing information to his school and restricting it from others.

The second would result from a new rule and interpretation by the NCAA that prohibits the 7-on-7 East Coast program from providing recruiting services regarding the prospects in the camps it sponsors. This was one of the issues explored in Charles Robinson’s investigative report regarding the Oregon Ducks football program last month in Yahoo! Sports. One of the two individuals featured in that report was Baron Flenory, owner of Badger Sports 7-on-7 and organizer of 7-on-7 camps across the country.  Flenory had at one time run a recruiting service similar to what Paterno described.

But the NCAA changed its rules and Flenory had no choice but to drop the recruiting service arm of his business.

The gist of the new rule and interpretation in Bylaw 13 is that individuals involved with 7-on-7 programs being paid by schools for their recruiting services cannot be involved with the recruitment to any school. Steering players to a particular school or conference after having received payment from that school or conference is a serious no-no.

While the 7-on-7 phenomenon certainly bears intense scrutiny as it develops and changes the landscape of college football recruiting, Paterno’s scenario would have already gotten the school, the booster and the 7-on-7 camp in hot water with the NCAA Enforcement Division.

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