N.C.A.A. Cracks Down on Recruiting Sites
By Paul Myerberg // Apr 8, 2011
So here’s the news of the day: the N.C.A.A. has decided that institutions may not subscribe to recruiting sites like Rivals.com, deciding that such Web sites are not media organizations but scouting services. That the N.C.A.A. has decided that such sites fit into the latter category makes them off-limits, in the sense that Rivals or Scout.com provide recruiting videos not available to the general public. Let’s see if we can make sense of this decision.
For starters, are the recruiting videos really not available to the general public? They’re available to me, available to you, available to anyone with an Internet connection – is essence, doesn’t that make them available to the general public? Yeah, you have to plop down a certain amount of money per month or per year, but aren’t these recruiting sites in the business of making these videos available to the general public?
Well, there’s a secondary issue at stake, one beyond that simple publication of recruiting videos. According to those more familiar with how these recruiting sites work – Bryan Fischer of CBS is a great example – it’s not just about the videos but the interaction between the sites and the teams they cover. For example, according to Fischer, team-specific sites – say, a Georgia-centric site – often share information with coaches that may or may not be made available to its other paying members.
This is a shaky relationship, one the N.C.A.A. wants to stop. I can get behind this stance, I suppose: a site that passes along tidbits and items about a certain prospect grants a team a leg up in that prospect’s recruitment, even if another team site can do the same for a different team. Take this scenario: Georgia’s Rivals site tells Mark Richt or a Georgia assistant that one recruit is looking to go to the same school as a teammate, or is interested in playing one position over another.
Richt could then use this inside information when making his recruiting pitch, offering this top prospect’s teammate or making sure the recruit is aware his position of choice is available when he arrives in Athens. You can see why the N.C.A.A. might want to put a stop to such a dialogue.
So what if Rivals or Scout stopped charging for content? I suppose that would then become fine with the N.C.A.A., though the potential for the above dialogue between site and coach still exists. And that’s simply not a possibility, as these recruiting sites are in the for-profit business, and likely couldn’t exist merely on advertising money.
But money might not be the big issue for a Rivals. Think of it this way: the N.C.A.A. isn’t banning what these sites bring to the table altogether, merely banning F.B.S. teams from using the service they provide. So monetarily, Rivals and Scout are merely losing the $10 a month from the coaches they subscribe to the service. If each coach in the F.B.S. subscribed to a Rivals, the company would be losing about $10,000 a month. Yeah, that’s a sizable chunk of change, but not a loss that would doom the company to bankruptcy.
The truth is the relationship might be far bigger. Programs might be receiving added material, information that a team site doesn’t provide to its normal readership. In that case, a school might be putting down far more than $10 a month, in which case the financial loss would be far more substantial.
So here it is, boiled down to a nutshell as far as I can tell: the N.C.A.A. disapproves strongly of the purported relationship between team sites and coaches. That makes its statement that a Rivals is more scouting service than media organization valid, if somewhat improperly worded.
Want evidence that the N.C.A.A. is serious about this stance? It has asked every F.B.S. program that has subscribed to a recruiting Web site to report it as a secondary violation.
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Tags: N.C.A.A. violations, Rivals.com, Scout.com
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