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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.
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.