Pete Thamel reports that college basketball coaches are getting gouged by summer basketball tournament organizers who charge hundreds of dollars for a packet that lists player names, numbers and contact info. But at least a few in college coaching are willing to draw a moral, or more probable, financial line in basketball. I applaud coaches like Kevin Stallings (Vanderbilt) and James Jones (Yale) for expressing their opinions, even if they are a bit over the top. Coach Jones called this a "crazy racket...It’s extortion."
Coach Stallings gave a great state of the game:
“That’s exactly what’s wrong with our business. There’s a mentality where coaches want to cover themselves and not get out there and say what’s right and call out the people that are wrong. That’s precisely why things are the way they are. That’s why we have culture issues in our game. It’s a darn shame. The people who could have influence and do have a voice, they choose not to use it because it doesn’t help them. They don’t want anything unsettling their smooth little boat ride.”
Of course, this problem (if it is a problem) has been going on for years. When the economy was going like gangbusters, coaches did not blink an eye when they were asked to fork over cash in exchange for valuable contact information. Now that athletic departments are slashing budget, college coaches want to put the squeeze on tournament organizers. Fair enough.
But before these coaches cry foul over expensive packets, they might want to engage in self reflection.
Off the top of my head, starting with the most costly:
1) Student fees athletics departments collect to fund athletics (one school reported 46% of its budget comes from student fees).
2) Coaches' salaries. If costs must cut, excessive pay would be a good start. 3) Coaches flying around on private jets to sign recruits.
4) Teams staying at hotels the night before home games. Of course, these student-athletes need to focus on basketball, not outside distractions.
5) Sending recruits love-you note via FedEx. USC coach Kevin O'Neill was notorious for sending top recruits FedEx letters virtually every day for months on end.
If I've learned anything in my study of basketball economics, it is that excess leads to access. Programs that literally spare no expense will continue to find creative ways to grease AAU organizers/coaches in exchange for access to top recruits. That's just good business in the bizarro world of college basketball.