cash Recruiting Issues (Part 2)

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In Part One of my “Recruiting Issues” post I briefly offered up a few opinions on the role that facilities play in recruiting. In Part Two, I wanted to address what is always a popular issue among fans, especially those of rival schools. Also, I want to thank Jordan for helping me put this post together. He always helps us edit our posts, but he added substantively to this particular blog entry.

Cheating

Anytime Oklahoma loses a recruit, invariably there is someone claiming that the other school paid the player. In fact, I suspect Jaylon Lane’s sudden commitment to OSU had some people raising that very question. But I know for an absolute fact that it had nothing to do with it. Typically, the primary form of cheating people think of is a booster paying a player. But there are a lot more common type of infractions that occur on a regular basis.

Does paying players occur? Absolutely. There is a saying that every program cheats (at least to some degree) and, in my estimation, it is true. It’s just about degree to which they do. Putting aside the fact that I blog about OU, I have a lot of friends in the football world. And I can tell you that you’d be hard pressed to find a cleaner program than Oklahoma. The compliance office in Norman runs a tight ship, which is obviously evidenced in #PastaGate and the other more recent “incident” also involving Gabe Ikard. As many of you know, the NCAA rule book is so vast (and includes so many ridiculous policies by which schools are expected to abide by) that often times any supposed “cheating” is often simply a result of ignorance. And by that I don’t mean stupidity, rather there is just no possible way these coaches can know every single rule and whether or not one may apply in any given instance (aside from the obvious and/or common sense, of course). This, in my opinion, would represent the majority of whatever “cheating” may be taking place at the University of Oklahoma.

Look, there is no denying the program’s history and prior…shall we say…indiscretions. But the fact that people are using stuff from 20 or so years ago (or the Bomar incident, but I’ll address that) as evidence of OU being a ‘dirty program’ just goes to show how big of strides the program has made, especially since Bob Stoops’ arrival. As to the whole Bomar scandal, I can guarantee you that was incredibly tame compared to some of the other stuff going on out there. And coach Stoops deservedly got credit at the time (and still does to this day) for his swift and harsh response to it all. So this argument about how dirty OU is as a program that helps Texas and/or OSU fans (among others) sleep at night simply no longer holds any water.

But before we get too far off track, the question at hand is (1) to what extent the cheating happens and (2) how much it affects Oklahoma’s recruiting.

Obviously, I don’t know every instance in which it occurs, but I can tell you I do come across it. I know for a fact we are recruiting a certain player that has turned down offers. I also know we are recruiting another player (different from the one I just mentioned) right now that I know for certain OU will not get, because he’s on the take and someone out there will pay him. I also know that last year we missed out on at least two recruits, because they were bought off by other programs.

It’s hard for me to say just how big an effect cheating has when it comes to whatever recruiting struggles you believe OU may or may not be having at the moment. A part of me is inclined to say it has a fairly significant effect, because we have literally lost recruits – at key positions – as a result of it. But I still feel that would be an overstatement, because it isn’t as if a huge number of recruits are actually on the take or being offered anyway. And I’m not at all of the mindset that recruiting rankings are particularly relevant, so even if we lose out on a recruit or two every year, it’s nothing that a little hard work can’t overcome by pouring over more tape.

Bottom line is that cheating does happen and it happens in a lot of different forms. And the fact that Oklahoma is one of the cleanest programs out there absolutely does hurt their recruiting. The question is to what degree. I’m certainly not saying this is the central issue, but it is part of the puzzle. When you’re losing one or two difference makers a year because other programs/boosters are paying them, and then you’re losing the opportunity at many more because other programs/boosters are helping those kids get to their schools for visits and not yours…it starts to add up.

With recruiting it’s never just one thing, and I wouldn’t say that other teams/boosters cheating is the primary issue when it comes to OU’s recruiting issues at the moment. I still believe OU can and should be recruiting better, and as we continue with these posts I (with y’alls help/suggestions) hope to finish with a picture of how OU might do that, regardless of how other teams might be gaining unfair advantages. Because the actual fact is that most D-I quality HS players out there are not involved in these illicit practices.


  • Jason Vos

    Unfortunately for us, Bob Stoops runs a clean ship. A little to clean in this day and age of recruiting. This has definitely had some effect on recruiting especially with some of the top tier guys.
    With guys like Pat White admitting to being offered a Corvette to sign or schools offering a players sibling to get that player or under the table hand shakes. Its just a really bad deal in recruiting, and unfortunately Bob Stoops is a man of the highest principal and integrity.
    That said I’d rather get the players we can get and have an honest and clean program with integrity than get the top ranked players with dirty recruiting tactics & false promises.

  • WilliamJack

    Per Bleacher Report some other big time schools are having a slow 2015 recruiting start.
    Commits: OU 4, Virginia 3, Washington 3, Stanford 3, Ohio State 2.
    That said, I think OU will be fine. It may take a little more work but in fact, who among us wants a kid to come to OU just because he received some payola and not because he wanted to be a part of the Sooner program. I think sooner or later those guys become a cancer in the locker room. Give me a coachable 3 star all day long. BOOMER!

    • Gary Robbins

      I agree and excellent report Super K. It does seem something is a little out of whack with OU recruiting at present time. The month of May in the past years has been a decent commitment period for OU. Something I don’t understand is T. Gibson, K. McKenzie, T. Settle all had very good OU visits and now list Tennessee as a top favorite. That’s why OU must put something on them this fall when they come to Norman that Ajax can’t wash off. SOONER!

      • Zack

        I think ou will be in the top 3 come October for torrance. No clue about settle I think one of the brainiacs mentioned he knows what happened that they can’t share at this time. And as far as Mckenzie who knows but he announced recently he’s going to wait until NSD.

        I just like that ou has a reputation for being cleaner than most others.

        • ToatsMcGoats

          I thought OU pulled Settle’s offer??

          • Zack

            They may have. Which is fine I think he’s a nose in the 3-4 and we already have Overton. If they got a really big dline class though I wouldn’t be surprised if they went back to a 4-3 in a couple years.

          • Steve Cooke

            No they didn’t. It was another miscommunication.

    • hOUligan

      Amen. Thankfully, the OU staff is looking for men that want to play for a team and be part of the Sooner family, not for pay at this point. OU doesn’t need guys that are low character and who will likely become problems for the team. SOONER!!

  • BigJoeBrown

    Very interesting article today Super K and Jordan, well done. This is a subject that you want to believe it doesn’t exist. Realistically though it occurs. I can’t really blame the kids though some of them just have never had any kind of mentorship in their lives or have grown up in conditions I can’t even imagine. On the other hand, there is so much money in college football universities see it as their own Casino. Think of boosters wanting to pay off some kids for “X”, then the university makes it to a BCS game or some good bowl games and in turn the university is making millions, and building new facilities.

    Have you had the opportunity to read, “The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big Time College Football” wow….you have got to check it out. It is a must read for college football fans.

  • SoonerfanTU

    Do you feel any obligation to turn stuff like that in when you find out about it? This comment isn’t about you, but the only way to put a stop to the cheating is for those that know about it to turn it in to the NCAA. Now, I know you (now I am talking about you, lol) may not feel right about that given your role, and how you are finding out. I also know that if the NCAA isn’t going to punish Cam Newton, they probably aren’t going to do much about a few thousand dollars changing hands either.

    I’m not an NCAA hater, but this is one area that I simply don’t understand. It seems to me it would be pretty easy in some cases to prove that schools/boosters are giving kids cash. There have just been too many stories over the years, and these kids just talk too much. Yet very, VERY little is done about it. I guess USC finally caught some punishment for Bush, but like I said, Cam Newton and Auburn went unpunished. Just seems to me that they (NCAA) could put a stop to, or at least scare some schools straight, in regards to what I consider the #1 no-no in college sports, simply buying athletes with large amounts of cash.

    • Eric Hoffpauir

      NCAA doesn’t have subpoena power, so while they might investigate a school based on hearsay, unless they can actually get people to willingly testify and/or solid evidence, they won’t do anything.

    • Super Keith

      Let’s say I knew a kid that was on the take, and I wanted to tip off the NCAA. There really isn’t much that can be done. They can’t subpoena anyone, so it comes down to hearsay. Not much can be determined that way. Since most of the payments are in cash, there isn’t a paper trail to follow. Nothing to find.

      The only thing that would happen if I tipped off the NCAA, would be the player would most likely find out I was the informer. I would then be labeled untrustworthy, and would probably never get a kid to talk to me about recruiting again. So, If I were Super K (just to be clear, I’m not, I’m Super Keith), it’s not even something I would consider.

      • SoonerfanTU

        You’d be surprised what an 18 year old will admit to when he is put on the spot. Heck, most aren’t even trying to hide it. Pictures of stacks of cash on social media sites. I’m not saying it would be easy for the NCAA, but if they would nose around where their is clearly smoke, they might at a minimum at least scare off some of the bag men.

  • Sooner Ray

    Bag men gonna bag.

  • Super Keith

    Cheating at recruiting started with the first recruiting effort. It’s an old, long practiced process. Oklahoma was one of the “best” at it, and got caught. We, as fans, paid the price by living through the 90’s, and it’s something I would never want to repeat. Bob Stoops was charged with keeping the program clean, and he has succeeded. He’s also won doing it that way.

    I don’t think there will ever be an end to some of the things that go on in the shadows of the recruiting world, but I do believe it is much more limited than it used to be, and that’s good for programs like OU, that do it the right way.

    Still, we’re going to miss out on recruits that are looking for a payday, and that’s too bad, but I’d rather have a kid that truly wants to be at OU and isn’t just showing up at the school that paid him the most.

  • SoonerGoneEast

    I’m proud that our program has risen above the fray and no longer engages in some of the high risk practices we were involved in. If we lose a player to a payoff, then it’s a big win for the University. We’ve all seen first hand the corrosive affect the me-first mentality has on a program, so good riddance, I wouldn’t have you for free.

    Although it’s a subject we’re all too familiar with, in recruiting there’s not enough emphasis put on what a character guy brings to the team versus what a player of questionable character can take away from the unit as a whole. Besides, there’s seldom a noticeable difference in realized potential with the right recruit, as the playing field is often leveled with maturity, desire, commitment and coaching. I know this isn’t always the case, but I still like our chances better with a character guy over someone who wants to wave his schmeckel around a parking lot.

    BTW, enjoying the series, keep ‘em coming!

  • L’carpetron Dookmarriot

    “There’s more than one way to recruit.”

  • James D-Space

    Hummm….. I’d be interested to know how Ole Miss & Tennessee were able to “sell” kids to come to come to their bottom feeding programs?
    I’m fine with losing kids that are on the take, just give me a kid with heart, character, willingness and wants to be a Sooner and I’ll show you a winner. Regardless what the stat sheet says.

    • Super K

      There are shady practices happening in the state of MS no question. However, I will say that the Ole Miss staff busts their butts. They work hard. But they’ve definitely got help. My friend is close to the Tennessee staff so I’ll have to ask him about them.

  • Jeff

    Outstanding article. I have been visiting this site on a recommendation from a friend and the content has exceeded all my expectations. So much so that I am seriously considering canceling my subscription to a popular OU pay site. The content here is just as good, more insightful and free. Super K, I am really enjoying your series on recruiting. I will disagree with you on the point of to what extent cheating happens. I believe based on my contacts/friends in the high school and college coaching circles that it happens more than you believe. Just like the media refuses to believe the prevalence of steroids and other enhancing substances in professional sports, many people refuse to believe the level of cheating occuring in college football. I know for a fact that Steven Parker was offered illegal things to commit to a large recently revived popular university in Texas. I can tell you right now for a fact how Alabama passes money to recruits. The question is whether the head coach or coaching staff knows. That is always the key point I am told. Cheating is more prevalent than you believe.

    • Sooner Ray

      You get more for your money here. I’ve always received way more than I paid for. :-)

    • Super K

      Jeff, thanks for the kind words! And I agree it happens but what I specifically was trying to discuss was to what degree does the amount that it happens actually prohibit OU from recruiting better. Rarely is a staff actually paying players (though I know of one that does). Most of the times it’s boosters. But in order for that to happen you have to have someone willing to pay the money…and they are just paying for anyone…it’s only certain kids…you have to have a runner which means you need an access point…and you have to have a taker…and a lot of the kids aren’t on the take. So when you include all the various factors it certainly affects on OU but the degree that it has an effect is where I’m torn. As far as Parker goes, I’ll check with his dad on that. We talk pretty frequently.

      • J.K. Abbott

        Thanks Super K for the write up. I agree with you on the amount of cheating going on and even tend to think it’s even a smaller problem then you have expressed. Fans are quick to point fingers at schools who bust their tails and haul in great recruiting classes. Not because I know someone or have a contact in coaching circles but because I live it everyday, in the 20 plus years Ive been doing this I can count on one hand the number of times colleges have cheated recruiting players. And it was generally minor violations like talking to kids on a visit during a dead period. As far as A&M “knowing for a fact” is a heck of an allegation. I know and have coached with one of their coaches. He would challenge anyone to call the NCCAA and turn them in on Parker;s recruitment.

  • Stephen

    Kind of off topic but is OU recruiting Chris Warren III? I saw him wearing some OU gear, also had some good looking film.

  • Alexander

    I know of some “bag men” at other programs, & I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted to do the same. There are half a dozen NFL players I can think of off the top of my head I could of swayed easily. Goes against my integrity, & I believe it’d bite me in the ass one day in some area (karma). This may rub some the wrong way, yet just a fact from my experience….
    In the charity work we’ve done, I’ve never seen a group of people eyes light up more & be ready to agree to anything than the lower class African Americans when money is around.

    • tforce

      “when money is around”
      I think you could have just left it as “when money is around PEOPLE’S eyes light up.” Class and race really have nothing to do with it. It’s all about relative benefit.

      • hOUligan

        Very true. Greed knows no color. Hate to bring him up, but does anyone REALLY believe Johnny Goofball did not make a small pile selling autographed items? Whether he should have been allowed or not is a separate argument. And he has never wanted for anything coming from a wealthy family.

  • Gary Robbins

    Just wondering if N. Curtis(1), O. Brown(2), don’t qualify because of grades and K. Marrs(3) transferring does OU have a problem?. We lose T. Feo(4), T. Evans(5), D. Savage(6), A. Shead(7), T. Thompson(8), D. Williams(9), and J. St. John(10-I think). That’s quite a line up to loose. OU has started to offer some J.C. lineman recently or should anyone be concerned since February is a long way off.

    • Super K

      Rest assured the coaching staff is concerned. They are trying to find guys – even freshman – that are going to be able to come in and play right away. I asked JY if he felt a RS season would be enough to get Frison ready and he said it’s possible but certainly didn’t sound confident due to how raw Frison is. Ideally OL are given time to build strength and refine technique. We are going to be hurting after this season. OTs should be lining up to commit.

    • tforce

      Seeing St John’s performance the Spring Game was disappointing. Hopefully he still has 2 to play 2?

      • Gary Robbins

        I hope so. With only Frison,Paul, and Alvarez as for sure lineman coming on board from the 2014 class, OU could be facing a numbers crunch. I agree with Super K, OU should have off. lineman banging at their doorstep if they want early playing time-especially OTs. According to 247 Sports OU has offered 20 off. tackles and 6 off. guards with only 1 commitment at present time(B. Evans). I know the coaches are beating the bushes but something still seems amiss to me. I know everybody – it’s a long time till February.

  • akryan

    The fatal flaw with recruiting players with “incentives” is that you are guaranteed to get a kid that comes in with an attitude of entitlement. It’s not worth it.
    There are a few special talents out there, but for the most part, the playing field has gotten a lot more even when it comes to talent. First, there are just more kids (because the population always grows) but the same amount of big name schools. Second, the increase in raw talent for any one kid has become logrithmic (a human can only be so big, so fast, and so strong), so the difference between a 5 star and 3 star isn’t what it used to be. Third, there is way more access to good coaching and recruiting even if you’re on a bad high school team. We got Striker because he just sent in a video of himself. The big UT QB was something like 3-9 on a 2A team his senior year and was still highly recruited. Coaches can no further than Google to access new coaching techniques. That’s not even counting jr. college. Once again I’ll taut Alaska (please oh please let someone from AK end up at OU). Three of the four kids that have gone to BCS schools (two to the NFL) from my school in the last ten years all went to jr colleges first. There aren’t just diamonds in the rough anymore. There are just a lot of diamonds.
    Coaching matters more than anything. The d-line last year wasn’t exponentially more talented this year than they were 2 years ago. They had a galaxy that year. It was Monty that made the difference. I think the real unsung hero was the new nutritionist.
    So, getting back to my original point, it isn’t worth breaking the rules for a kid, or worrying about losing a specific kid to cheating, because there is always someone else.

  • tforce

    I think OU’s recruiting probably benefitted from “bagmen”-type influence prior to the Bomar incident. There was a precipitous decline in the Sooners’ ability to pull 4-5 star rated players from Texas after that.

    A significant part of moving nationally to recruit players is probably a response to these influences growing in Texas as the SEC’s influence becomes greater.

  • Mearokus

    I HOPE OU takes a serious look at Ryan Newsome of Aledo, TX. This kid is talented. How do you get this information to the right people at OU?? I’ve tried to get information to them before, but never received a reply of any kind! Frustrating…