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June 7, 2013

Flock Talk: NCAA Crossroads

NCAA Crossroads

Over the past several months, the organization held responsible for governing behavior within its membership, the universities who comprise the organization, has experienced a great amount of turmoil which has culminated in greater public scrutiny.

Scrutiny can be a good thing as it exposes to all the weakness that may exist. There is a dilemma, however, as we look deeper into the soul of an organization that may no longer retain the capacity to govern as they were originally commissioned.

Franz Kafka once wrote that "from a certain point onward there is no longer any turning back. That is the point that must be reached."

The same has become true of the NCAA and their arcane processes.

This week those processes came into focus once again as the processes of the National Letter of Intent have been exposed for what is perceived as creating a very large power divide between the organization that enforces rules and the athletes which comprise the reason for their existence in the first place.

What has happened, though, in the wake of the decision by Notre Dame to not release Eddie Vanderdoes from the National Letter of Intent which he and his parents signed in February, is that a small piece of leverage that is still retained by the athlete was made bare for the world to see.

Now, to be clear, to date, no player has used this tactic to exert any power or leverage. Much like when Brandon Jennings decided to skip college entirely and play professionally overseas directly out of high school did not drastically alter the landscape of college basketball recruiting, this long existing loophole in the NLI program will not likely lead to a huge difference in football recruiting.

But it could. And therein lay the danger of the exposure this case has raised. Currently, while the recruiting game itself is a veritable free-for-all, as has been made clear by the mind-numbing number of recruiting scandals over the past several years, once a prospect signs a letter of intent, for all intents and purposes, the three ring circus of recruiting ends and the process of developing those young men begins.

But what happens if a player does not sign a letter of intent? Well, then the circus continues right up until fall practice begins. That's the loophole, folks. There is nothing written anywhere that requires an athlete to sign a NLI in February. If he (or she) does, in fact, sign the NLI, both athlete and school are contractually bound to each other for a year. But the binding is stricter on the athlete.

Should the athlete choose to accept a scholarship agreement and not honor the NLI, he must sit out a year at the institution he switches to AND he will lose a year of competition as well. That's not a concurrent loss of years, they are separate. Rather than having 5-to-play-4, Eddie Vanderdoes will redshirt 2013 and then have just 3 years of competitive eligibility remaining.

That is a very harsh penalty for changing your mind. In fairness, both Vanderdoes and his parents knew the rules of the game when they signed the NLI, so it is difficult for them to make too many complaints. He is eligible to appeal the decision of Notre Dame to not release him from the NLI, but must present compelling evidence of extenuating circumstances that caused the change of destination.

Nonetheless, this may be the crossroads in college recruiting. If the top tier players refuse to sign a NLI, the recruiting circus that culminates with national signing day coverage with news conferences and coverage by major sports networks of high school kids making their college choice both known and official could conceivably continue right up to the first day of football practice sometime in August.

This would be a bad thing for college football.

The lower level recruits do not likely retain this kind of power as they could easily get passed over for someone willing to sign a NLI. Top 50 or top 100 players, however, are the types of athletes who any coach would welcome as soon as they showed up on campus.

The NCAA may have reached a crossroads with the Eddie Vanderdoes story. There is a loophole which could throw college football into perennial chaos. And, if you don't think that it will create even more cheating, you are wrong.

Losing two years for a change of heart is probably too steep a price to pay. It might be time to alter that rule. Make them sit the year and, in exchange, change the policy, to receive a scholarship to a football Bowl Subdivision university, an athlete needs to be required to sign a NLI, otherwise, chaos might just reign forever.

Recruiting Buzz

This week was a very busy week in Duck recruiting. In a trend some long time Duck Sports Authority members might be familiar with, commit Wednesday made its return this week.

Oregon secured commitments from two junior college athletes taking the number of known verbal commitments for the class of 2014 up to five.

Defensive lineman Tui Talia switched from an earlier commitment to the Washington Huskies on Wednesday. The 6-5, 270 pound athlete begins to fill a need for the Duck defense as the coaches look to fill some holes that will be lost to the graduation of seniors Ricky Heimuli, Wade Keliikipi and Taylor Hart after the 2013 season.

In addition, Oregon added defensive back Dominique Harrison out of Contra Costa Community College. The Ducks lose a couple of senior safeties after 2013, but there is also the possibility of losing at least one starting cornerback to early entry.

Top Trio and Hidden Gems looked at the state of Texas this week.

As always, stay with Duck Sports Authority as we continue to bring you the latest recruiting information and break down those recruits looking at Oregon.


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