Posted on: June 17, 2009 10:47 am
I wrote a column about Elite Camps last summer detailing the "creative" ways many schools go about getting high school prospects on campus for an unofficial visit. Among the things I explained is how schools hire summer coaches or other people connected to prospects and pay them large amounts of money to work Elite Camps with an understanding that that person will then turn around and use part of his payment to cover the travel expenses of a desired recruit because, honestly, how else could a normal kid and his family afford to fly all over the country each June unofficially visiting campuses?
This reality is something Tubby Smith addressed this week.
It's one of the reasons he isn't holding an Elite Camp at Minnesota this year.
"There [have] been some concerns as coaches with kids that are traveling that far for a day or two-day Elite Camp," Smith told the St. Paul Pioneer Press . "We don't want anything to suggest that there's any type of [wrongdoing]. ... An Elite Camp is legal; I think guys are doing the right things. But there are some things that can look like they're not, so you have to be real careful."
One thing about Elite Camps I didn't get into last summer is how they can be (and usually are) a huge financial loss for schools, which should prove that the real motive isn't to make money (as is the case with camps for younger players) as much as it's to simply get prospects on campus regardless of the cost.
For instance, the cost for an elementary age player to attend a camp at a high-major program might be $250, but the same program will charge intriguing high school prospects just $40 to attend its Elite Camp. Then that program might have 20 prospects attend, which would garner $800 in fees. But then that program might hire hire 10 people connected to the prospects to "work" the camp at $1,000 a piece, which would cost the program $10,000.
And then there's the cost of food.
And a program could easily show a loss of more than $10,000 for a two-day camp.
But who cares?
If it helps get a recruit, it's money well spent.
But Tubby Smith apparently doesn't see it that way.
And though I'm not sure it's smart given the nature of this business, I can admit it is at least noble.
Posted on: August 5, 2008 1:26 am
Edited on: August 5, 2008 1:46 am
Here's Tuesday's Dear Gary ...
Dear Gary: I have a few questions for you about college basketball. I know North Carolina holds some kind of tournament or skills camp at the Dean Dome for high school players every summer. Is that the same thing as an Elite Camp? Also every summer I hear about how our players get to play against UNC alums (NBA players former and current) in pickup games. I know that if you play on/against a professional sports team before you go to college you lose your amateur status. Why can you play against a pro once you're in college? Does it have to do with the NBA players taking summer school classes? I also wanted to say THANKS for giving us real coverage of college basketball and the way things really work in recruiting and officiating. It's always a real eye-opener and NO ONE else does it nationally that I have found. Keep up the good work!
Let's take these one at a time.
Q: I know North Carolina holds some kind of tournament or skills camp at the Dean Dome for high school players every summer. Is that the same thing as an Elite Camp?
A: I believe what you're referencing is the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions, which is one of the more prestigious AAU tournaments. It's an annual event that attracts most of the best summer teams to the campuses of North Carolina, Duke and North Carolina State each May. And though it's another "creative" way to get prospects on campus (for UNC, Duke and N.C. State, at least), no, it is not an Elite Camp. The Elite Camp is something totally different.
Q: Also every summer I hear about how our players get to play against UNC alums (NBA players former and current) in pickup games. I know that if you play on/against a professional sports team before you go to college you lose your amateur status. Why can you play against a pro once you're in college? Does it have to do with the NBA players taking summer school classes?
A: Those games you hear about are between former Tar Heels and current Tar Heels, and they are OK because, well, I don't really know. I just know they are OK, per NCAA rules. Where schools run into problems -- like UNC did with Iman Shumpert -- is when recruits participate in pick-up games -- or have any substantial interaction - with former players because former players are considered representatives of the school (just like boosters) and are thus forbidden from interaction with recruits. Simplified, recruits can talk with current students and current players but not with former students or former players (but former players can hang with current players all day long).
(Does that make sense?)
As for the part about former players taking summer school classes, well, that's the loophole, if you will. Remember the Shumpert story from last year? It was OK for him to talk with Marvin Williams and Raymond Felton because they were enrolled in summer classes and were labeled as current students and allowed current students' rights. Sean May, on the other hand, was not enrolled in summer classes at the time. Consequently, he was considered a former player and representative of North Carolina, which means he was forbidden from interacting with a prospect like Shumpert.
(Does that make sense?)
Anyway, I hope that cleared some things up.
And, in all seriousness, thanks for the kind words at the end of your note.
You keep reading.
I'll keep trying to tell you how things really work, best I can.
Posted on: July 30, 2008 10:25 am
Edited on: July 30, 2008 10:25 am
Here's Wednesday's Dear Gary ...
Dear Gary: Did Kentucky utilize the Elite Camp loophole during Tubby Smith's tenure? I thought Tubby wouldn't deal with the AAU coaches.
Honestly, I'm not sure whether Kentucky was holding Elite Camps back then. But either way, I never understood Tubby's concept of not "dealing" with AAU coaches. That's like being in the movie-making business but claiming not to want to deal with fame. The fame goes with the territory of being an actor, just like dealing with AAU coaches is a part of being the basketball coach of an elite program.
There are really only two options:
1. Deal with AAU coaches and try to get their players.
2. Move to Minnesota.
Posted on: July 29, 2008 2:48 am
Edited on: July 30, 2008 3:28 am
Here's Tuesday's Dear Gary ...
Dear Gary: What is the NCAA's stance on such loopholes? As soon as they close one loophole, another one will open up. It is the never-ending battle.
Sadly, I believe you're correct, Jeff.
When I write these types of columns I never pretend that I'm fixing anything or that I even have a solid solution. More times than not -- whether it's a column about the AAU coaches running recruiting services or the referees working foreign trips or the future college coaches working with AAU teams or the Elite Camps -- I'm Just trying to let the average reader understand how the world really works to the best of my ability. That's always the goal. But I'm not out to "clean up" college basketball because, honestly, I don't think it's possible.
Like you said, every time a loophole is closed another is opened.
That's the reality of the sport because there are men being paid millions of dollars to win games, and the best way for those men to ensure they can do their jobs well is to enroll great players. Thus, there will always be either flat-out cheating or an exploitation of the rules in the attempt to get the players who can help win games. To change that, you'd have to change everything -- starting with the way we use our institutions of higher learning as fronts for what are essentially professional sports franchises.
And that isn't changing, case you haven't heard.
So what we have is a sketchy operation -- yesterday, today and tomorrow, I'm afraid.