Here's Wednesday's Dear Gary ...
Dear Gary: Bill Self all but said screw the NCAA when he spoke with John Wall at a basketball tournament (last week). All I'm going to say is this: Let Billy Gillispie do anything close to that and the media would take a step in his backside and walk around in it for a while. What's up with that? And are you going to write anything about what Bill Self did?
First, I'm the guy who has consistently defended Gillispie, particularly about his practice of taking young recruits. So when you talk about the media being all over Gillispie, you're talking about somebody else, because though he has operated in some gray areas (you pretty much have to in this sport, by the way) I never thought there was anything wrong with recruiting young kids, and I disagreed with the NABC when it came down on Gillispie for doing it.
As for Self, let's deal with what we know before we deal with what I think.
What we know is that Self is claiming he went to the back of the gym to see the coaches (not Wall), that he didn't initiate the conversation with Wall, and that he told Wall basically what the Missouri newspaper reported he told Wall, which is "Johnny, great win, man. You really played well. I’m not supposed to be talking to you, and you know that, but I just wanted to tell you that was a great win." Nobody is reporting that anything more than that happened -- a greeting and a termination of the brief conversation by Self -- and that could take Self off the hook because the NCAA rulebook states that there is no violation as long as the coach doesn’t engage in more than a greeting and "takes appropriate steps to immediately terminate the encounter." Self telling Wall that he can't talk to him could easily be seen as Self taking "appropriate steps" to terminate the encounter. But the other question is whether the NCAA will find that Self intentionally "positioned himself" in a location where contact could occur with Wall, because the NCAA rulebook also states that if a coach "positions himself in a location where contact is possible" it is considered "contact."
In other words, it's complex.
But in the end, this will either amount to nothing or very little to the NCAA.
That's my guess.
Now let me tell you what I think: I think Self is a smart guy, one of the best recruiters in the country, and that he had to know that by going to congratulate Wall's coach that he just might "bump" into Wall, and that as long as he was brief and made it clear to Wall that he couldn't be anything other than brief it would all be OK, according to the NCAA rulebook, because there's nothing wrong with bumping into a recruit. In fact, that's what it's called in basketball circles -- a "bump." And that's the goal of every coach during every July recruiting period, to "bump" into as many prospects as possible. I've seen coaches stand near doorways of gyms, in parking lots near cars that belonged to recruits, and even drop into a local McDonald's and sit in a booth next to a recruit, because the NCAA can't stop a coach from going to a McDonald's, can it? One of my favorite stories -- and I won't use the coaches' names, because the story was told to me off-the-record -- involves a coach and an assistant following a van carrying an AAU team from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. The coaches pulled up beside the van, got in front of the van, got behind the van, honked their horn at the van, stopped at every gas station that the van stopped at, and the thought was that the NCAA couldn't do anything because the NCAA can't prevent coaches from traveling on the interstate, honking their horns or stopping at a gas station.
These are all forms of "bumps."
And what Self did with Wall is what basketball people call a "bump."
It's a common practice in recruiting circles, just enough in the gray area to put the NCAA in a bad spot, and that's why I suspect the NCAA will have a hard time doing anything to Self because Wall initiated the contact and Self ended it after 32 words. So again, this will either be nothing or a minor violation at worst, and then somebody will spend next week trying to "bump" into Wall, and the cycle will continue forever and always.