Despite changing NCAA regulations, Solich lands top recruiting class

Ohio recruiting coordinator Brian Haines, left, and head coach Frank Solich at the Feb. 2 Singing Day press conference. (Courtesy of The Post -- Staff Photographer Alex Goodlett)

At his press conference on National Signing Day, Ohio football coach Frank Solich proudly announced that this year’s recruiting class could be the best he has had in his seven-year stint in Athens. His first point of emphasis for the 24-man class wasn’t the speed, skill or size of the athletes, though.

“We’ve got a lot of excellent players,” Solich said, “a lot of guys with really high character.”

As more and more NCAA rules violations are being brought to light at high-profile athletic programs, Solich and his staff are trying to ensure their team’s compliance by bringing in players with skill and character. But, even the process of recruiting itself is riddled with rules and regulations. The school’s compliance staff must meticulously monitor and any and all forms of contact with a prospective student-athlete.

The NCAA has a stringent calendar that all Division I football programs must adhere to when recruiting prospects. There are limits set on personal contact, visits to a prospect’s “educational institution” and chances to evaluate prospects during competition.

Even if a coach is approached by a prospect’s parent at the mall, he can do no more than exchange pleasantries, lest the program forfeit one of its 42 face to face contact opportunities – and that’s only if it’s during the “contact period.’

Any contact outside of that seemingly arbitrary two-month window from late November through late January — specific dates vary from year to year determined by a formula in the NCAA Bylaws – and a program could likely find itself slapped with a sanction.

“It’s tough. You’ve got to stay on top of it,” Ohio tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Brian Haines said. “You’ve got to know what you’re doing and what’s right.”

But, Haines said there was a simple solution to effectively navigate the NCAA’s constantly changing rules and regulations, and ensure all his actions are on the level.

“Put our compliance department in your favorites in your phone,” he said. “We’re always communicating back-and-fourth and they do a good job of helping us out.

Haines shouldered much of the responsibility in determining whether a recruit’s athletic abilities merited a scholarship from Ohio University.

Tricia Turley, associate athletic director for Compliance and Student Services, on the other hand, made sure the recruits and the recruiters were held up to NCAA standards.

“We handle what paperwork needs to be completed by the prospect and when,” Turley said in an email correspondence. “We also provide academic assessments based on the NCAA Qualifier standards for the coaches and help facilitate the admissions process.

“We also answer various questions about communication with the prospects.”

USC expects athletes to self-report meetings with agents

USC student and former NFLPA-certified agent Teague Egan (right) lounging in the 1st Round Sports golf cart. (From The Los Angeles Times)

The University of Southern California is taking steps to make sure its student-athletes avoid contact with agents or, you know, at least give the school a heads up if there is contact.

On Tuesday the USC Office of Athletic Compliance emailed a four-page memo to the school’s 35,000 students and 5,000 faculty members outlining what could be considered impermissible contact between student-athletes and agents — an ‘innovative’ policy that vice president of athletic compliance Dave Roberts said is the first of its kind.

And to think, all this was prompted because USC running back Dillon Baxter accepted a free ride in a golf cart from a fellow student/former NFLPA-certified agent Teague Egan.

‘Cause the whole Reggie Bush fiascoOJ Mayo scandal, and Joe McKnight investigation weren’t enough.

From The Daily Trojan:

Under the policy, students, staff and other third parties are required to notify USC’s compliance office of their involvement with a sports agency before any interaction with student-athletes.

“We’re publishing this to the student body, so they can be aware,” Roberts said. “Of course, somebody could choose to ignore it, but we have to at least be proactive by putting the policy in place.”

Specifically, the new regulations stipulate that all such parties provide written notification to the school’s compliance office within 24 hours of their involvement with a sports agency or similar marketing agency.

Those found to be in violation of the policy would then be subject to remedial action and/or discipline, according to the release.

Essentially, all this “Athletes and Agents” policy does is attempt to deflect blame away from the Trojans if and when more violations surface. “Hey man, we told them not to talk to agents and they said they’d totally tell us if they do. What more can we do?” C’mon, the school replaced football coach Pete Carroll, who jumped ship when heavy-duty sanctions were handed out, with Lane Kiffin.

Lane freakin’ Kiffin — that bastion of coaching integrity. USC didn’t exactly clean up the program with that hire.

Student-athletes are forced to sit down with school compliance officials multiple times a year and learn in excruciating detail about virtually anything and everything that could jeopardize their amateur status and violate NCAA regulations. The ones who accept money and gifts from boosters or meet with agents before deciding to go pro know what they’re doing — and that it’s wrong.

(We’ll save the debate about whether student-athletes should be paid for another time.)

Sure, Athletic Departments have some incentive to self-report violations to the NCAA when it’s obvious the NCAA is going to find out down the road anyway. But why in the world would a student-athlete report talking with an agent?

What sort of professional contract is an agent going to be able to net for a student-athletes who can’t play his sport because he spoke with an agent? If they’re going to get busted, they’ll get busted but don’t expect student-athletes to voluntarily fork over cash and get themselves suspended.

What USC’s policy boils down to is “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the athletic department. But hey, that kept all the gays out of the military right?

Bart Logan: Sports Masochist

Ask any good Cleveland sports fan about their most memorable professional sports moment. If they’re under the age of 46, you can probably prepare yourself for their answer by watching something upbeat, you know, like Schindler’s List.

They’re going to tell you about The Drive, The Fumble, Red Right 88, The Move, Game Seven, The 2007 ALCS and of course the most recent addition to the Cleveland curse hierarchy — The Decision.

Cheering for Cleveland sports a lot like the 4-H livestock auction at the county fair.

A kid raises an animal — let’s say a lamb — from the time it was an infant. The kid cares for it and cherishes it much like a pet, but doesn’t really getting much in return. It’s a labor of love.

Then when that proud moment arrives and the kid can show off his lamb to the rest of the public there’s a sick cruel twist — they’re bidding on it to eat it. At least with the 4-H auction they don’t slaughter the lamb right in front of the kid.

With the globalization of the sport everyone else calls “football” I naturally had to adopt a team. I chose Newcastle United because A) my dad got one of their jerseys (“kits” as the Brits say) when he was across the pond and brought it home for me B) they were a proud English club with a devoted fan base and rich history and C) they weren’t one of the “Big Four” that won by simply outspending the other clubs.

Coincidentally, Newcastle also had not won a single trophy since 1969 — not a domestic trophy since 1955.

In other words, I chose the Cleveland sports equivalent of the Barclay’s Premier League. Today was The Decision on the Tyneside.

With just seven hours remaining in the January transfer window, one of two opportunities during the year that teams can bid on players to add to their roster, Newcastle accepted a $56 million bid for from Liverpool for local star Andy Carroll.

Carroll, a 22-year-old striker, is among the leading scorers in the Premier League. He came up through the Newcastle system and had expressed on numerous occasions that he wanted to remain at his hometown club for life.

Then apparently, he decided he liked the ridiculous wages Liverpool were offering and owner Mike Ashley (a complete knit wit that is not fit to run a club) ‘reluctantly’ accepted the bid (tin foil hat on).

The Magpies just lost their leading scorer — a player to build the club around, an England International — and were left with no time, or negotiating power, to bring in anything resembling a feasible replacement.

You see it, right?

God just doesn’t want me to be happy, I figured. He doesn’t ever want me to be able to cheer for a winner. He takes pleasure in building up my hopes only to tear me down again. And again.

Then I realized the difference — I didn’t really choose to love Cleveland sports. My family was from the area and had always loved Cleveland sports, and therefore I adopted that love. But even my old man had the brains to adopt big club (Chelsea) when he jumped on the European Football bandwagon. But not me.

No I chose Newcastle — a club rich in history, but of late the butt-end of every Premier League joke. One that was relegated two years ago, but returned to top flight this season and boasted one of the most exciting young players in the game.

No they weren’t going to break into the top four just yet, but they were making stride. Europe couldn’t be that far down the road. Maybe they could make a cheeky run at the Carling or FA Cups next season? With Andy Carroll, a No. 9 ready to take his place among the Newcastle legends, there was finally room to be optimistic.

I should’ve known better. But, it wouldn’t change anything. I wouldn’t know what to do — wouldn’t know how to gloat — if I could cheer for a winner (Ed Note: I am an Ohio State fan. They have been relatively successful of late but I’m talking professional sports).

Luckily I don’t have to worry about that problem. I set myself up to be knocked right back down. I am Bart Logan: Sports Masochist.