Wednesday, August 31, 2011


When TigerBlog was making the teams for the 3rd/4th grade division of Lower Bucks Lacrosse awhile back, he asked TigerBlog Jr. if he knew a kid from his elementary school named Matthew Anderson.

TBJ said he did, that Matthew was in his class, and so TB put Matthew on TBJ's team. It was Matthew's introduction to lacrosse.

Little did TB know at the time that Matthew would came back in a few years with size 14 sneakers and top the six-foot tall mark by the time he was 12 or 13. Back then, as TB tried to divide up teams fairly equally, he was just an unknown fourth grader who got placed on TBJ's team.

It seems like yesterday.

Today is Matthew's first day of high school. TBJ, who is going to a different high school (one that requires a jacket and tie each day, started yesterday.

Actually, TBJ was supposed to start with a freshman picnic Sunday afternoon and then school Monday, except Hurricane Irene had other ideas. Is that an ominous sign, to have the first day of high school wiped out by a hurricane?

In addition to being lacrosse teammates since fourth grade, Matthew and TBJ were Princeton basketball ballboys the last five years or so. Matthew and his family have been to a ton of Princeton athetic events through the years, as have any number of TBJ's other friends and teammates.

Back when TBJ first decided to play lacrosse, the coaches and equipment staff here did a nice thing and helped get him the right equipment. As he became more serious about it, they continued to support him in many ways.

A year ago, then-assistant coach Stephen Brundage would work out with him, shooting on him several times before Princeton practices.

And now, with the arrival of ninth grade, all of that changes.

TBJ, Matthew and the rest of the group are now "PSAs," or "Prospective Student Athletes."

It's not because of their athletic ability or participation. It's because of their grade.

The NCAA rulebook checks in at 426 pages, which is actually down from the 500 it used to be before some streamlining occurred.

If you've never perused this book, it's a treat. Every conceivable situation is addressed, and there are rules for almost everything.

And if you want to be critical of the NCAA because of the overregulation, check out what's been going on lately all over the country, from USC to North Carolina to Miami and Ohio State and others.

If the rules weren't so tightly controlled, imagine how out-of-control it all might get.

The rules are hyper-specific about what is allowed in regards to dealing with prospects, who are defined as anyone who has started ninth grade.

These rules apply to everyone in high school, athlete or non-athlete. It doesn't matter if you're a soccer player; the rules regarding contact with the baseball coach or any other coach apply. This is the same if you play no sport in high school at all.

The rules talk about what is permitted and not permitted mostly in terms of recruiting, whether or not a player will eventually be recruited or not.

There are rules about when a coach can talk to a prospect, email a prospect or meet with a prospect. There are rules about coming to events on campus. There are rules about working with coaches. There are rules about everything.

For instance, the sessions that TBJ had with Brundage are no longer permissible. Neither is it possible for him to get equipment from the Princeton coaches.

Rules about coaches' being able to speak to TBJ are more relaxed because of pre-existing relationships, but TigerBlog doesn't want to do anything to cause any problems for any of the Princeton coaches or for TBJ or his friends and their families when they come to games here.

Rules compliance can often be viewed as a pain by everyone except the compliance officers themselves, many of whom are lawyers, by the way, including Princeton's two current ones - Anthony Archbald and Kelly Widener.

Still, the rules are there for a reason.

Yes, it would be great if the rules could go from 426 pages to 10 pages and largely read "don't pay the athletes; make sure they're all going to school; recruit with integrity."

As recent headlines suggest, that wouldn't quite work, of course.


Anonymous said...

It's a little sad that the NCAA manual is 420 pages long but that's the way it must be. It's obvious that some coaches will take their behavior right up to the line, whereever the line is drawn. And if you don't draw the line clearly, there will be no bounds on their behavior.

NCAA rules aren't there to protect the students; NCAA rules are there to protect the coaches who *don't* want to cheat.

Anonymous said...

Have faith! Loosen the NCAA grip! After all, it is not in the "best interests" of coaches and athletic directors to engage in questionable behavior to gain an advantage. It would never happen.