LAS VEGAS -- I landed here a few hours in advance of Wednesday's start to July's final evaluation period for basketball prospects, wrote a column about Tim Floyd, Isaac Hamilton and the signed letter of intent that's holding them together, then sat in a gym among college coaches to watch games.
In between dunks, we talked.
Naturally, I ended up in conversations with several coaches about the Floyd-Hamilton saga, and I believe some of their thoughts are worth sharing. So here goes. For starters, everybody agreed that Floyd's stated reason for refusing to release Hamilton -- his reason basically being that it's just too late in the process for a player to bail on a program -- is hypocritical considering Floyd himself once bailed on Iowa State in late July, and, I'm compelled to remind you, that was the main point of my initial column. That point is irrefutable, I think. Even coaches close to Floyd acknowledged that. But, almost to a man, they added they do believe other staffs tampered with Hamilton and helped initiate the decommitment, with one coach insisting that, "UTEP got effed on this deal."
So that's the consensus among coaches.
That UTEP got screwed.
And you should know that coaches are rolling their eyes at the idea that Hamilton wants to enroll somewhere closer to his Los Angeles home to be near a grandmother whose health has deteriorated. Like really rolling their eyes. Most think the kid just wasn't interested in playing at UCLA for Ben Howland or at USC for Kevin O'Neill when he signed a letter of intent with UTEP last November, but that the coaching changes at both schools combined with some good old-fashioned tampering -- and let the record show that Floyd has publicly accused USC of tampering -- have led to Hamilton changing his mind. Either way, the result is the same. UTEP will not enroll its prized recruit. The only question that remains is whether Hamilton will win an appeal and have his letter of intent with UTEP voided, though most coaches I spoke with doubted the likelihood of that.
We'll see in time.
The only time theories greatly varied is when I asked coaches what they'd do if they were Floyd. In the spirit of honesty, I'll tell you not all of them agreed with my opinion that Floyd should just release Hamilton and be done with it. Some did. But most didn't because they said they think it would set a terrible precedent that could lead to recruits never being bound to schools in any real way, and I get that. But my counter-argument would be that the overwhelming majority of prospects would still actually enroll where they initially pledged, and that, even if they didn't, what do I care? As stated in the column, I'm fundamentally against student-athletes being restricted. So prospects remaining technically free until they enroll wouldn't bother me at all, though I realize such a reality would create a level of stress for coaches that would trump anything they deal with now.
In other words, I disagree with the point but understand it.
So is there a compromise to be had here?
A reasonable way to end this?
I asked a bunch of coaches those questions, and the answer I liked best was this one: "Tim should just say, 'We think what happened here is wrong and that it represents the worst of recruiting. We worked hard to sign Isaac, and when we signed him we assumed we'd enroll him. But then another staff tampered with him, and now here we are. And we're not happy about it. But we're not interested in messing up anybody's eligibility, either. So what we're going to do is release Isaac to every school except the one school that we think tampered with him, that way we won't be rewarding a staff for doing something we don't believe is right but also won't be standing in the way of Isaac playing closer to home, if that's genuinely what he wants to do. Luckily for him, there are lots of options in the L.A. area. So we're going to release him to anybody ... except USC.'"
That's a compromise I could get behind.
I told the coach that.
Such would allow Floyd to look reasonable and Hamilton to start his college career this season at one of the many programs in or near Los Angeles, perhaps even UCLA. The only problem with this solution is that UTEP isn't allowed to release Hamilton from his letter of intent with restrictions. The school can only release him or refuse to release him. It's all or nothing ... unless some sort of side agreement is made. So who knows how or when this situation will get resolved? But it's already messier and more complicated than either side wanted, that's for sure.