College coaches ticked off by organizers price gouging them at recruiting events

CBS Sports college basketball writers Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander spent the July evaluation period at NCAA-sanctioned events, where they talked with coaches from all levels. They asked for honest opinions on players, coaches and issues in the sport. They'll be sharing those opinions over a three-week period.

I spent some time last month -- and three different columns you can read here, here and here -- detailing how event organizers exploit an NCAA-approved system by charging what most agree are outlandish prices for "packets" that college coaches are often required to buy before being allowed to enter a gym to evaluate high school prospects during the month of July. And I can't tell you how many coaches, from all levels of the sport, both men and women, reached out during or after what amounted to an unplanned series to say they were glad somebody finally shined a light on what most think is a completely ridiculous operation.

And, yes, most do think it's a completely ridiculous operation.

We confirmed that by asking more than 100 college coaches the following question:

Do you have an issue with what some event organizers charge coaches for admission and packets during July?

Yes 77 percent
No 23 percent
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FIVE QUOTES THAT STOOD OUT

  • "It's ridiculous that we have to pay hundreds of dollars for a packet to attend a summer event. I went to one event for one day this summer, and they charged me $325 for the packet. And I didn't even need the packet! I would think most coaches wouldn't need a packet. You sort of know who you need to evaluate before you get there. So you should not have to buy a book for hundreds of dollars just to get into an event."
  • "The entire thing has gotten completely out of control. And what drives me crazy is that these guys do it with a straight face. Most of them have convinced themselves that they're actually providing a service that's worth the money they're charging us to attend these events. They claim they're just in the business to help create opportunities for kids. But that's bull----. They're in the business to make money -- a lot of money. And don't let them lie to you. They're making a lot of money."
  • "Here is what I have an issue with: If you buy an expensive TV, you want it to have all the buttons, a remote, directions, warranty, etc. You want it to work! When we get these packets, the rosters are wrong, the names are incorrect, the numbers don't match up with names, and some teams aren't in the book at all. We have to pay all this money and, sometimes, we still have to do the work to find out who these kids are, where they are from, what's their contact info, etc. ... So it's ridiculous that we accept paying a lot of money when we get absolute crap as a packet."
  • "I would love to see the tax returns for some of these guys. They all have nice homes. They all have nice cars. And the only reason is because they stick us up every July. And then they try to say, 'Well, it's not your money. It's your school's money.' And that's true. But it's also insulting. Just because I can expense it doesn't mean you should be charging me crazy money for a book I don't need but am forced to buy. Some of the guys running these events are no different than criminals."
  • "We don't have any budget concerns when it comes to event and packet prices. So I guess I don't really have anything to complain about. However, it's the principle of the whole thing. What a racket. I understand and, in most cases, respect capitalism. But it's out of control. We pay $400 for a packet that is quickly printed and doesn't always contain correct info. Come on, man. It's just ridiculous."
  • MY TAKEAWAY

    Because I'd spent so much time on this subject over the past month, I wasn't surprised by the answers or quotes coaches provided. But don't let the breakdown -- 77 percent of coaches polled have an issue with what event organizers charge, 23 percent do not -- mislead you. Here's the truth: they all think it's ridiculous. It's just that some of the coaches polled work at the high-major level and don't have a problem with what's going on because their budgets are so large it just doesn't affect them in any real way.

    That's the root of the 'No' answers.

    And it's also among the reasons why this is unlikely to change any time soon -- unless, of course, the NCAA steps in and regulates things, which, I'm told, probably won't happen because the sport's governing body has little interest in doing something that could potentially lead to a legal battle with event organizers who might argue the NCAA has no right to limit what they're allowed to make. In other words, the only way for college coaches to change this is for them to simply refuse to pay the prices listed and thus deflate the market. But the coaches at the highest level of college basketball aren't too motivated to do that because, again, they have massive budgets that can easily endure the hit even if the hit is stupid.

    "I don't have the type of budget where we can just throw around hundreds of dollars every day in July to attend different events, but the guys at the top do," said one low-major coach. "And as long as they keep paying, nothing changes. What I wish is that all coaches would come together and take a stand. I wish the high-majors would take a stand for us and say, 'The racket is over. We'll pay reasonable prices. But we're not paying what you've been charging us anymore.' But they really don't have any incentive to do that because these expenses don't cripple them. They just cripple us. And because they cripple us but don't cripple them, the high packet prices actually create a recruiting advantage for them over us because they can go anywhere and see everything, and we really do have to pick and choose our events. ... It's not like they need another recruiting advantage over us. But it still is one more advantage. So why would they give up that advantage? That's the problem. We need them to take a stand. But I don't see why they would take a stand because they're not the ones who need this system to change. We're the ones who need the system to change."

    All of that is true, of course. So, barring a surprise, next July will look a lot like this July. It'll feature college coaches flying around the country and paying outlandish prices to buy packets that are often poorly put together so that they can attend events that are often poorly run. Then they'll complain -- both to me and to the actual event organizers. But will they do anything about it? Probably not. They'll complain but still pay. And as long as they still pay, the big business that is July basketball will continue to flourish even if nobody thinks it should be this big of a business.

    CBS Sports Insider

    Gary Parrish is an award-winning college basketball columnist and television analyst for CBS Sports who also hosts the highest-rated afternoon drive radio show in Memphis, where he lives with his wife... Full Bio

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