Have you ever noticed that we live in a world where we think that the more rules we place on things, the fairer they will be? In some instances rules are very necessary. For example, doping rules exist to protect the health of athletes. However, rules do not always make things fairer, and in fact, they can work to keep some people, businesses, or teams at a competitive disadvantage.
That is why I have a bold proposal for college recruiting. I want the NCAA to remove restrictions on recruiting when it comes to anyone not on the payroll of the university. Keep on with the restrictions on visits, calls and texts, but if boosters want to spend millions, let them do it. In the end, everyone may walk away surprised at how fewer restrictions bring about more competition.
1. Less Restrictions Means More Competition
Going into the football season, how many teams had a legitimate shot at winning the national championship? I would argue that number is less than eight. Why is that? Only about eight to ten schools have strong enough coaching and recruiting year in and year out to build an elite program.
Everyone hears all the rumors (and truths) of cheating going on with boosters. Everyone remembers Scam Newton, and everyone remembers how nothing happened. Mississippi State boosters could have taken that chance with Newton, but for whatever reason, they decided it was not safe enough to do it. Auburn boosters rolled the die and came up with a national championship. If Auburn boosters (and probably some complicit folks at the university) had not taken that gamble, would the Tigers have had a national title? How can it be said that this system was fair and worked?
But, why does it have to be a gamble? Why could there not have been an open bidding war for Cam Newton? Would this not allow more schools to have a chance to become instant contenders?
I hear you now arguing that Alabama would still find a way to come out ahead. I hear you arguing that Ole Miss would still use trucks and girls to try to win the day, but nothing would be stopping other schools from doing the same thing. If you don't think T. Boone Pickens could turn Oklahoma State into a title contender in two years, you are crazy. Think how much money the Davis Wade family spent on the stadium. What if that went into securing a top notch recruiting class? With some proper planning and money management, boosters from about any school could mount quite a war chest to pick up players.
Now if you think this would only turn into a contest of who has more money, you are wrong. Boosters (working with a coaching staff) would have to be smart about the players they decide to show the money. If I am offering Joe Linebacker $35,000 and a blonde a week to attend my school, someone else could beat that offer. Even more, if I am already paying someone to consider my school, I better hope that someone else doesn't come along with a better offer. In the end, boosters aren't going to throw their money around haphazardly. They are going to target it where they get the most bang for their buck.
2. Boosters and Their Money are Easily Parted
If boosters are willing to drop crazy money on players, why not let them benefit from doing so. There is no reason a kid should not be allowed to take money and items from adults who are foolish enough to give it to them.
If someone wants to pay Billy Safety $25,000 to visit a school and have a good time, there is no reason he shouldn't be able to take it. If State U is worried that Billy will decommit, they need to up their offer. If a kid ends up making a $100,000 or more from his recruitment, so be it.
If a school wants a scholar (which I thought all athletes were as well), they can do anything they want to get a high school student to attend their school. With the money universities are going to make off of Five-Star Freddy, why shouldn't that player get a bit more of the pie.
Who knows? Schools might decide work even harder to bring in the best students to graduate the richest alumni to have more powerful boosters to aid in recruiting.
3. Non-enforced or Hard to Enforce Rules Inherently Create an Unfair Playing Field
When rules are impossible to enforce or are enforced laxly, it creates a game of who can push the envelope the best. If Directional University boosters decide that it will push the envelope as far as possible, but State A&M boosters decide against doing so and walk the line, State A&M has to play at a disadvantage.
While Directional University may in fact be caught and punished one day, they also stand a great chance of avoiding punishment, meaning their program benefits from breaking the rules while State A&M suffers for following the rules.
The NCAA has proven incapable of thoroughly and fairly enforcing their rules, so they are allowing an unfair playing field to be built where those who will take it to the edge, or even over the edge, benefit while rule followers suffer.
In the end, the only chance for a true level playing field in the NCAA is to ditch the rules against benefits provided by boosters. It may not work, but neither does the current system. Could it get ugly? Without a doubt, it could. Would it be entertaining and awesome? Absolutely.