Another recruiting rule that helps the rich: limiting to five the number of paid visits a recruit can make to a campus. Says Charlie Spoonhour, coach at Division I Southwest Missouri State: "It takes two visits before somebody won't laugh at our name." In other words, schools that need extra time to sell themselves don't have it.
Go East, Young Man
Earl Duncan had the routine down pat. Like other L.A.-area ballplayers, he would get home from practice at St. Monica's High by 5:30 p.m. and flip on the TV. There he would see some Big East team making like a slalom course for Syracuse's Pearl (Dwayne) Washington while 27,000 citrus-colored Carrier Dome crazies whooped and hollered. That, Duncan would say to himself, could be me.
So it was that Duncan, a 6'3" guard ranked among the nation's best, signed with Syracuse last fall. And though he'll sit out this season because he failed to achieve the minimum SAT score required by NCAA Bylaw 5-1-(j), Duncan's case typifies the Decline of the West.
Just look around: Syracuse also bagged Stephen Thompson, another L.A. guard; Kansas got 6'5" Keith Harris from Santa Monica; Clemson signed 6'10" Elden Campbell from Inglewood; and North Carolina nabbed 6'9�" Scott Williams from Hacienda Heights. Philly-bred Walt Hazzard, coach at UCLA, and new USC coach George Raveling have stilled the west-to-east trend somewhat, but there are still more Pac-10ers from West Germany (two) than from New York, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Florida combined (one). In this twisted scheme of things ESPN is a sort of latter-day Wells Fargo in reverse and TV mouth Dick Vitale (page 114) a kind of obnoxious Horace Greeley.
Take Duncan. He wasn't so much recruited by Syracuse; he chose the Orange. He studied scores of games on his VCR, comparing styles, decibel levels, Vitale-ity. "I'm a basketball junkie," he says. "Every game that's televised, I watch. If it wasn't for the exposure Syracuse had on television, I would never have chosen it." Did schools like USC and UCLA ever have a chance? Care to Hazzard a guess?
Even the West's presumed advantages have evaporated. Remember how West Coast players wanted no part of the weather back East? "If a western kid went east there was always a 50-50 chance you'd get him back as soon as he saw the snow on the ground," says UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian. But now, as one WAC assistant says, "Today's kids are TV kids. The first thing they ask is how your TV schedule is."
Other handicaps out West:
?Smaller recruiting budgets. Says Providence's Chiesa: "We never see western coaches around here or at summer camps in the South. But they'll see a lot of our people out West." Plus it follows that recruiting will be costlier in less-densely populated areas.
?Simple demographics. "Inner cities are vital to recruiting," says Idaho's new coach, Tim Floyd. "In the West the only real inner-city basketball is in L.A. and Oakland."