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Offering To Find A Prospect’s Girlfriend A Job Appears To Be Perfectly Legal… In Football

Yesterday morning and afternoon, if you checked MrSEC.com or Yahoo Sports! or The Birmingham News (via Al.com) or any number of other sites, you saw that the mother of an Alabama signee had accused Nick Saban of offering her son’s girlfriend a job working in the school’s football offices.  The suggestion being that Bama was being good to the girlfriend and the girlfriend was helping Bama land the recruit in return.

In just about every story that referenced the bizarre Landon Collins’ recruitment, the following NCAA rule was cited:

“During a two-year period before a prospective student-athlete’s anticipated enrollment and a two-year period after the student-athlete’s actual enrollment, an institution shall not employ an individual associated with the prospective student-athlete in any athletics department non-coaching staff position.”

Pretty clear.

Only it isn’t.

The rule cited — bylaw 11.4.2 applies to basketball only, not football.  Yep.  You read that right.  While a basketball coach can’t hire anyone associated with prospect, a football coach is apparently free to do so.  According to good ol’ 11.4.2.

If that makes sense to you, you’re either an NCAA wonk or an Alabama fan (who’d be arguing just the opposite if Gene Chizik were the coach in question and not Saban).

On the basis of 11.4.2, we got it wrong.  Mea culpa.  We don’t like getting facts wrong, and we have no problem admitting mistakes when they occur.  But rather than simply erasing the line from our original post as many other sites have done, we thought we’d give this issue a full post because more people — obviously — need to be aware of the rule… and the fact that what’s good for football coaches isn’t good for basketball coaches.

That specific bylaw went into effect in January of 2010 and it was designed to curtail the growing practice of hoops coaches hiring people as a means of luring in a recruit who is somehow connected to the folks being hired.

Would the NCAA view a girlfriend as one of those people who could not be hired?  Here’s what bylaw 17.6.1 states: “Any person who maintains (or directs others to maintain) contact with the prospective student-athlete, the prospective-athlete’s relatives or legal guardians, or coaches at any point during the prospective student-athlete’s participation in baksetball, and whose contract is directly or indirectly related to either the prospective student-athlete’s athletic skills and abilities or the prospective student-athlete’s recruitment by or enrollment in an NCAA institution.  This definition includes but is not limited to parents, legal guardians, handlers, personal trainers and coaches.”

So, yes, it does appear that hoops programs would be unable to provide employment for a players’ girlfriend.  It seems odd — odd enough that the loophole might eventually be closed — that what’s illegal in one NCAA sport is legal in another.  Basketball coaches might want to ask a question about why what’s good for the goose isn’t good for the gander.

But we’re not finished.  To make things more confusing, check out bylaw 13.2.1:

“A representative of a Division I institution is not allowed to, directly or indirectly, make arrangements for or give any financial aid or other benefits to a prospect or a prospect’s relatives or friends.”

In such a case, “Benefits include, but are not limited to: Employment arrangement for a prospect’s relatives; Gift of clothing or equipment; Cash or like items; Any tangible items, including merchandise; Cosigning of loans; Providing loans to a prospect’s relatives or friends; Free or reduced-cost services, rentals or purchases of any type; Free or reduced-cost housing; Use of an institution’s athletic equipment; Sponsorship of or Arrangement for an awards banquet or prospective athletes.”

Let’s get all this straight.  Basketball programs can’t give jobs to a recruit’s buddies, family and contacts.  Football programs can.  Unless you take bylaw 13.2.1 seriously.  In which case, it would appear that football programs might not be able to promise employment to family (and perhaps friends), either.

To get to the bottom of this, we have attempted to contact five SEC compliance directors to discuss these rules and to determine what limitations are put on a school regarding the employment opportunities it can offer a recruit’s family or friends.  Usually, we hear back quickly when we put in requests like this.  In this case — silence.

And what about a school straight-up promising to find a job for a recruit?  When Tide commitment Justin Taylor said earlier this month that he’d been told by Alabama coaches that they would help him find a job, that too set off a wave of national discussion on what’s legal and what isn’t.

Well, NCAA bylaw 13.2.3.3 states that “an institution may arrange for employment or employ any prospective student-athlete” so long as the employment doesn’t begin before the player finishes high school.  Therefore, schools can promise jobs and find jobs for players all day and all night.  Basketball and football players, we might add.

The only stipulations on employment are found in bylaw 15.2.6 which states:

1.  The student-athlete’s compensation does not include any renumeration for value or utility that the student-athlete may have for the employer because of the publicity, reputation, fame or personal following that he or she has obtained because of athletics ability;

2.  The student-athlete is compensated only for work actually performed; and

3.  The student-athlete is compensated at a rate commensurate with the going rate in that locality for similar services.

Other than that, it’s fair game for programs to help find athletes jobs.  Thus, promising a recruit a job is A-OK as well.

In summary: Promising a job to a recruit is fine.  Promising a job to a recruit’s hangers-on is a no-no in basketball and a maybe in football (depending on the interpretation of bylaw 13.2.1).

Now, this most recent dust-up began when April Justin — Collins’ mother — told the website MomsTeam.com that Bama had promised her son’s girlfriend a job.  But Justin is now backing away from the website’s claims.

“There’s accusations saying (the girlfriend is) going to hand feed Landon to Saban and that basically my son is following her daughter, which is a lie,” Collins told The Birmingham News late yesterday.  “Since his junior year, when we first visited, we fell in love with the (Alabama) campus.  Furthermore, there was an accusation saying she has a job for an internship.  It’s not a job.  It’s an intern in his office.”

And that’s why we said in our initial piece that there may or may not be any meat on the bones of MomsTeam.com’s accusations.  (Unfortunately, a few Bama fans took even the mere mention of this story — which everyone else mentioned to — to be a an outright attempt to harm their beloved football program.  It wasn’t.  And where have you people been when this writer has repeatedly called Saban the best coach in the country?  Reading only what you want to read and seeing only what you want to see, it appears.)

But for future reference:

* We’ll continue to work hard to avoid factual errors — typos and word-flips are going to happen.  When we do make mistakes we’ll correct them (and in this case, do more than just remove a line or two of text from the original story).

* We will continue to not give a hoot in hell whether your favorite SEC team wins or loses.  It’s business for those of us here at MrSEC and if you think you spot some pro-this-team or anti-that-team bias, it’s only evidence of your own bias.  We don’t care.

* We’ll also be waiting to see if the NCAA closes this loophole in its ongoing attempt to update its rulebook.  After all, it sure seems like it would be much simpler to just have all the rules involving employment match up from sport to sport.

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