Earlier this week Brad Locke posted an article regarding some of the silly secondary violations MSU had self-reported. There have been several of these type articles published in the last few years, so it's nothing new. The point he was trying to make was that sometimes the NCAA can make recruiting a little bit awkward. But what I took from it is our compliance department is the silly one making things awkward.
All the violations and subsequent penalties were ridiculous, but here is the one that stood out:
Violation: NCAA bylaw 22.214.171.124, impermissible off-campus contact of a prospect.
Details: On June 28, head coach Vann Stuedeman arrived at an airport while on the road recruiting, and a 2014 prospect, along with her parents, waited for her inside the airport terminal in order to surprise Stuedeman with a verbal commitment. Stuedeman ended the encounter as quickly as possible and informed the prospect and her parents that she could not have off-campus contact with a 2014 prospect. She told them she would have to report a violation, and she immediately contacted the compliance office.
Self-imposed penalties: Stuedeman would be given a letter of admonishment and a reminder letter of her obligation under NCAA bylaw 126.96.36.199; Stuedeman would be prohibited from participating in any off-campus recruiting for 30 calendars days beginning July 1, 2012; the softball staff would be prohibited from further off-campus contact with the prospect in question for 30 days beginning July 1; off-campus contacts for the prospect in question would be limited to one for the 2013-14 academic year.
SEC response: Self-imposed actions accepted, no additional penalties imposed. Level I secondary violation.
Now this is so stupid. Our head softball coach is at the airport and this recruit is probably anxiously awaiting her arrival with her parents to deliver some very exciting news. But Coach Stuedeman cuts her off and says they are committing a NCAA violation - imagine the embarrassment for that young girl as he was so excited but then gets hit with that bit of information.
I do not like the NCAA for a myriad of reasons - but I won't blame them here. There is a reason they have that rule. I won't blame Coach Stuedeman too much either because undoubtedly she was just doing her job, as she was instructed to do. I'll put most of the blame on the MSU compliance department for not having any common sense.
There's letter of the law and spirit of the law as we all know. You can be going 78 mph on the Interstate and be breaking the letter of the law, but since you're going with the flow of traffic, maintaining a safe distance to other cars and not driving recklessly, most highway patrolmen will recognize you are not breaking the spirit of the law.
I guarantee the NCAA didn't put this rule into effect for a harmless meeting involving girl's softball. What should've been indicated to Coach Stuedeman would have been to recognize any potential major violation, but use some common sense on the small ones - the ones there is literally no chance of being caught for, and are not breaking the spirit of the rule. A player wanting to surprise her future coach with some exciting news is not breaking the spirit of this rule.
What should have happened during this scenario is simple. Coach Stuedeman should have been excited about the news, shared in the joy of the announcement, and then after things had calmed down and it was time for the recruit's family and Coach Stuedeman to part ways, she could have simply and calmly stated that the meeting was actually in violation of some rules - it's perfectly okay this one time, but let's not do it again. Once Coach Stuedeman got back to campus, she could tell MSU compliance about the incident if she wants to, but that's where it ends. No report to the SEC or the NCAA. Who could've witnesses this event take place? Do you think there were Ole Miss softball boosters lurking? If anyone at the airport had any possible knowledge of what was going on - they probably wouldn't have known it was any type of violation!
On to Bracky Brett - director of MSU compliance. I don't know the guy personally, I haven't met him...I really know nothing about him. There have been plenty of folks, however, upset at his approach to "compliance". Many feel as though Brett is constantly telling people 'what they can't do' instead of 'what they can do'.
By comparison, it appears as though compliance departments from other SEC schools are more willing to walk the line with potential violations if it helps them land recruits, i.e. Ole Miss. Other schools have lawyers running things, MSU has Bracky. The common sentiment is that Mr. Brett nips everything in the bud before it can get off the ground - and his answer to everything is: violation. There's even a twitter account devoted to it (that's where I got the Barney Fife theme).
I'm not sold on the idea of seeing what we can get away with. I just don't think that's the way I'd like to see our program go. At the same time, however, we don't have to go to the other extreme.
What he does seem to be is a Barney Fife type character. Letter of the law - that's the way it is, mister! Don't do the crime if you can't do the time. Nip it in the bud!
Barney Fife - Nip It (via Brian Williams)
Well, how 'bout a little more Andy Taylor. Let's use some more common sense here. Let's ask ourselves, is this really that big of a deal? When the NCAA made this rule, what were their intentions? Do we really need to report the fact that one of our soccer players skipped class to do some charity work?
Finally, what about the pending NCAA investigation that everyone seems to have forgotten about? I'll go ahead and say that I've heard through the grapevine that we self-imposed two scholarships for the 2013 class, but that wasn't listed in Brad Locke's report. Is that what we did?
Moreover, did we punish ourselves for the Angelo Mirando / Will Redmond / Byron D'Vinner scandal, or did someone turn us in?
It's very possible that our hand was forced in the matter - we had to go to the SEC and, in turn, the NCAA with the violations. But what if no one turned us in? That's a slippery slope I suppose. I don't want us to do wrong and try to cover it up, but did we do our best to put our best foot forward? Based on the view of Bracky Brett that I currently hold, I'm not so sure.
/awaits strongly worded letter from MSU athletic department.