Oct 7, 2010

UCLA and Ohio State NCAA Violations

Play Their Hearts Out is not a book loaded with "gotcha" newsbreaks. It is an eight-year journey, and along the way some events and conversations may surprise people, but these aren't the kind of revelations that lead to big headlines.

There are two bits of news, however, that I feel should be addressed by those involved, and I am curious to see if the local media that cover UCLA and Ohio State take note.

In chapter 31 (Yes, I know, there are a lot of chapter in PTHO), I detail the different ways some of the boys were recruited by colleges. One of the players I focus on is Roberto Nelson, who is now at Oregon State. Roberto was the most sought after of the boys and UCLA and Ohio State were among his suitors. Each school committed an NCAA violation while pursuing him, which I describe on pages 376 & 377. Here is the relevant passage:

The Bruins recruited Roberto hard – they made phone calls, sent emails, scouted his AAU games – but as his junior year began, he had yet to be formally offered a scholarship. Coach Ben Howland told Bruce Nelson he was concerned about Roberto's grades and wanted to see how he scored on the SAT. Howland's hesitancy probably had more to do with wanting to see how Roberto and other players developed; no sense in offering him a scholarship before it was necessary.  That didn't stop Howard from committing an NCAA violation regarding permissible contact. In certain months, coaches are allowed to call a recruit or his family only once. In one of these months, and after a UCLA coach had already spoken to Roberto, Howland called Bruce. "I didn't know it was him until I answered the phone because the number had a Santa Barbara area code," Bruce said. "Ben said he was up in Santa Barbara visiting people, and we talked about maybe getting together while he was in town." Howland had never called Bruce from a Santa Barbara number before. "I guess he knew that if used his UCLA phone, then people could find out he called me."

Ohio State didn't couch their interest in Roberto. Coach Thad Matta offered him a scholarship when he visited campus for the Ohio State-Michigan football game in November, and one of assistants began working with Bruce to make sure Roberto had the course credits he needed to be eligible to play for the Buckeyes as a freshman. He reviewed Roberto's transcripts and advised Bruce on what summer school courses Roberto should take. Like UCLA, Ohio State also violated an NCAA rule pursuing Roberto: Former Ohio State player and CBS college basketball analyst Clark Kellogg called Bruce and lobbied on behalf of his alma mater. (As a former Ohio State player he was forbidden under NCAA guidelines from contacting recruits or their families.) "I heard that the missing piece to the puzzle was a kid in California," Kellogg told Bruce.

I realize these allegations aren't going to set off alarm bells at the NCAA, but it would be interesting to hear a response from UCLA and Ohio State.