Thursday, July 13, 2006


"What is left when honor is lost?"
—Publilius Syrus, First Century BC, Maxim 265

Back between my freshman and sophomore years of college, I had the opportunity to attend and participate in a session of The LeaderShape Institute. LeaderShape's vision is to "improve society by inspiring, developing, and supporting more people committed to lead with integrity."

The program focuses primarily on young men and women but I think it would be well worth the money if Indiana University were to choose to cover the tuition cost to send their new head basketball coach, Kelvin Sampson, to one of LeaderShape's weeklong seminars. Based on recent events surrounding Illinois recruit, Eric Gordon, and the points raised by the Chicago Tribune in this article and this article, I think it could be extremely beneficial to Coach Sampson. Of course, Indiana could save that money if Coach Sampson would learn to follow the examples of the coaches you are about to see quoted in part two below. These quotes are regarding the coaches' views on whether or not coaches should continue to recurit athletes who have already made a verbal commitment to another school.

Here is one perspective:

Kelvin Sampson, Indiana: Sampson can accept phone calls from recruits but he is banned from recruiting off-campus and making calls because of NCAA sanctions from his tenure at Oklahoma. He declined a request to explain his philosophy on recruiting prospects who have committed to other schools.

Dan Monson, Minnesota: "They're 16, 17 years old," Monson said of recruits. "The process is a lot of times recruiting the parents as well as the student-athlete. In my instance I did it, I felt justified. Am I proud I did it? No. Do I want to ever do it again? No. But to say it doesn't happen or never would happen again isn't reality."

Mike Brey, Notre Dame: "Kids are pulling the trigger too quickly," Brey said. "I personally think tampering is at a minimum and you see much more knee-jerk reactions because the kids are in the middle of a firestorm. By the time we get to make our phone call, they're worn out from everything else."

Here is the other (right) perspective:

Bruce Weber, Illinois: But too often he sees other staffs simply being relentless in their pursuit after the fact. "It can become a disaster. You would hope a friendship with a coach, or being in the same league or a rivalry would be a factor in preventing some people from recruiting kids who have committed. But I guess some people were raised differently."

Jimmy Collins, Illinois-Chicago: "It's scandalous and unethical, but there's not a lot you can do about it. It happens a lot. The other schools should back off, but it's such a back-stabbing, shark-eating profession that I know they don't."

Jerry Wainwright, DePaul: "I'm old school and if indeed our profession wants credibility, if some other coach gets a commitment from a kid, you give credit to those people and move on because there has to be ethics. Continuing to recruit a kid is something we never do." He also added that he would like to see prospects sign national letters of intent at the time they make a decision. But he would regret "having to legislate integrity."

Mick Cronin, Cincinnati: Cronin said he wouldn't get involved unless the player told the other coaching staff first. "We elect to take the oral commitments, it's part of what we do," Cronin said. "It's never going to be an exact science. But it's a problem--you promise a spot to a guy and you stop recruiting other people."

Tom Izzo, Michigan State: No direct quote from Izzo but Izzo called Weber over the 4th of July weekend to empathize after he heard through the coaching grapevine what was happening with Gordon. The problem has ripped apart enough recruiting classes that Weber said the Big Ten coaches discussed possible solutions at their most recent meeting.

Well, there you have it. Recruiting is a difficult part of the business that is high level college basketball. It could be less difficult and remove a lot of the sleaziness, however, if all coaches could learn to exhibit the ethics and integrity of guys like Collins, Izzo, Wainwright, Weber, and Cronin. So what do you say Coach Sampson (and Monson and--to a lesser extent--Brey)? Should I get you an application for the LeaderShape Institute? I promise I will put in a good word for you to let them know that you badly need the lessons they teach. Drop me an email at Illinitalk and let me know.

Until later, GO ILLINI!!!

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