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Secondary recruiting violations

One of the more interesting things in the sports page this past month is that Washington may have committed three secondary recruiting violations under new head coach Steve Sarkisian.

What is interesting is not the violations but the coverage of those violations in the local newspaper. You would think that they were giving away fruit baskets and summer jobs once again with all the attention they have received.

The first violation which came to light during player interviews was that Washington used a fog machine and a siren to simulate running through the tunnel on game day. It also came to light that new UT Coach Lane Kiffin who was also an assistant at USC violated the same rule the same weekend.

A good coaching staff tries to make recruiting visits fun. They want the event to make an impression. The NCAA rule was put in place to limit one oneupmanship in an area they felt was getting out of hand. It was only a matter of time till the Blue Angels did a timed fly over during a recruits visit.

The second violation was that a media representative was present when some of the staff had lunch with recruits in Los Angeles this past week. The third violation is that one of the players who came along unexpectedly was a junior that can't be contacted till this summer. That is what is commonly called a "Bump" in the coaching business.

This is the story from the LA Times concerning that visit.

By the time Sarkisian pulled up in a Cadillac Escalade, Purvis had already planted himself in a swivel chair and was watching his own highlight DVD set to rap music. Soon Holt, Boyd and Beck arrived and everyone viewed Purvis' highlights on a flat-screen television perched high on a wall.

The group reconvened a few minutes later at the coffee house, sitting at a table surrounded by pictures of black luminaries such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

Even though NCAA rules forbid college coaches from contact with underclassmen, Asante had asked Beck, his budding star, to tag along in preparation for the deluge of recruiting visits that will ensue next season.

Elijah Asante is the football coach at Jordan HS which is located in the infamous Watts District of Los Angeles. The coach is a local power broker who is grooming local kids for potential football scholarships. Having a friendly relationship with a guy like Asante is key if you want to crack the code in LA's inner city which is rich with athletic talent.

Sarkisian has these type of contacts and that is one of the things that made him very desirable to the University of Washington. If you can't recruit the LA inner city you aren't going to win conference championships.

As far as the violation goes it is once again secondary. Coach Asante invited the reporter to get a little self promotion and he invited Deshawn Beck to get his feet wet to prepare for the rigors of recruiting he will face next season. Asante may have been unaware of the rules.

Under the letter of the NCAA rule what Sarkisian should have done was ask Deshawn Beck and the LA Times reporter to leave. Even if he had done that it would still count as a "bump" and secondary violation because he ran in to Beck unexpectedly. Not much you can do about that one. Bumps are the most common secondary violations and sometimes they are unavoidable.

Washington and other NCAA schools will self report between 20-30 secondary violations each this year for all sports. The goal for every school including the UW is zero. Even with that goal in mind it is pretty tough to be perfect. Even Ty Willingham had secondary recruiting violations even though I doubt any of them ever had the intent of creating excitement.

The reason the local media is paying so much attention to Sarkisian's secondary violations is that Rick Neuheisel died a death of 10,000 paper cuts during his tenures at Washington and Colorado. Rick was the "King" of the secondary violations.

Some of Neuheisel's sins included a three-point basketball shooting contest with a recruit that was deemed an impermissible tryout, contacts with former Colorado players after he had taken the UW job, and contacts with recruits during a "quiet period" to get a head start on recruiting when he first arrived. We will never forget the "I forgot to unpack the rule book" quote.

He was fired in 2003 after participating in an NCAA basketball tournament pool and for lying about that as well as his interest in the San Francisco 49ers coaching job.

Colorado was placed on two years’ probation by the NCAA for infractions committed while he was the Buffaloes’ coach. All were deemed secondary violations and most involved improper contact with recruits. Neuheisel personally committed or was involved in 51 secondary violations during his tenure at Colorado alone.

Sarkisian is up to two or three depending on who does the counting in his first two months at Washington. I wouldn't say it is a red flag but it certainly is a bit of a yellow that Scott Woodward needs to pay attention to. You don't need stories like that popping up in the newspapers when you are trying to raise $300 million dollars for a new stadium.