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The Recruiting File
Alexander Wolff
November 19, 1986
A miscellany covering the ways colleges court the stars of the court
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November 19, 1986

The Recruiting File

A miscellany covering the ways colleges court the stars of the court

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SUNDAY

MONDAY

TUESDAY

WEDNESDAY

THURSDAY

FRIDAY

SATURDAY

 

1
September

2
FLORIDA STATE watches Eric play pickup ball for four hours.

3
OKLAHOMA STATE coach Leonard Hamilton tells Eric: "You'll be THE player at OSU."

4

5

6

7
FLORIDA STATE coach Pat Kennedy brings VCR, shows tape, says: "You'll be our Pat Ewing."

8
GEORGIA coach Hugh Durham visits.

9
NORTH CAROLINA calls. Expresses interest. Wants to see how Eric does on SATs in Oct.

10
AUBURN coach Sonny Smith visits.

11

12

13

14
GEORGETOWN calls to cancel coach John Thompson's visit for the 16th.

15
SOUTH CAROLINA watches Eric play pickup. COLORADO coach Tom Miller visits.

16
GEORGIA watches Eric play pickup.

17
KENTUCKY coach Eddie Sutton brings VCR, shows tape, mentions former Wildcats now in NBA.

18
FLORIDA STATE and IOWA watch Eric play pickup. WESTERN KENTUCKY visits.

19
IOWA watches Eric play a pickup game.

20
Eric and teammate Aubrey Boyd drive to GEORGIA, watch football game vs. Clemson.

21

22
GEORGIA and OKLAHOMA STATE watch Eric play pickup. IOWA coach Tom Davis visits.

23
GEORGIA, KENTUCKY, IOWA watch Eric play. SOUTH CAROLINA coach George Felton visits.

24

25
IOWA' FLORIDA STATE, GEORGIA watch Eric play pickup.

26
IOWA and KENTUCKY watch Eric play a pickup game.

27

28
FLORIDA STATE watches Eric play a pickup game.

29
UNLV comes to check Eric's transcript. IOWA visits Eric at school, shows tape.

30
IOWA watches Eric run in a cross-country meet and then play pickup.

1
October
IOWA watches Eric play pickup.

2
IOWA watches Eric play a pickup game.

3
IOWA watches Eric play pickup. GEORGIA makes second home visit.

4
FLORIDA STATE watches Eric play a pickup game.

5
KENTUCKY watches Eric play pickup. FLORIDA STATE makes second visit.

6
GEORGIA TECH coach Bobby Cremins calls to apologize for not yet coming to see Eric.

7
IOWA watches Eric play pickup. UNLV comes to visit.

8
GEORGIA and IOWA watch Eric play pickup.

9
IOWA watches Eric play a pickup game.

10
FLORIDA STATE and GEORGIA watch Eric play pickup. OKLAHOMA STATE visits.

11
Peace and quiet. Coaches no longer allowed to visit...at least until March 1987.

The War Room

Gordon Chiesa is a dapper man with a small mustache and an enormous store of energy, most of which he devotes to his job as recruiting coordinator at Providence. Chiesa, 36, looks vaguely like Inspector Clouseau, but when he closets himself in the Friars' War Room he's as calculating and obsessive as Dr. Strangelove. And why not? With more and more colleges chasing the same pool of high school basketball talent, recruiting these days takes place in a Sellers market.

It is Chiesa's job to help his boss, Providence coach Rick Pitino, hunt down the best centers, forwards and guards in the land. To seize every advantage, Providence has given over one room in its basketball suite to the recruiting effort. The walls of the War Room are papered with color-coded file cards, each containing the particulars of a different prospect. The cards are arranged in order of desirability, high school class and position. "This is the new era," says Chiesa by way of explanation.

Yet the Providence staff is plainly up against it. The business of player procurement is a highly competitive one, filled with high school coaches eager to gain favor with big-time college coaches; with Runyonesque touts, middlemen and hangers-on looking for money or prestige; and with streetwise and smooth-talking college assistants practiced in the art of buttering up prospects while at the same time judging which ones are worth the effort. Isn't it demeaning for grown men to kowtow to teenagers? "The secret is to get other people to do that for you," said Dick Versace when he was the coach at Bradley last spring. By summer Versace was the ex-coach; the Braves were nailed by the NCAA for recruiting violations.

There's still the coach who dispatches his "surgeon" (see Recruiter's Phrase Book, page 36) to an airport to "bump" a prospect who's just returning from his visit to UCLA, in an attempt to rub off some of the glow. And all big-time schools ply prospects with cloying letters, pitches and the latest vogue: videotapes.

Recruiting has never been unimportant. But with the stakes (read: TV and tournament money) higher than ever, recruiting is more crucial than ever. Talent must be hunted down and taken. Within the recruiting industry—yes, industry—& player that a school really wants is a "take." One it has landed but didn't really need is a "gottem."

It shouldn't be surprising that recruiters speak in a vernacular evocative of back-room deal-makers. That's what they are. Is cheating as widespread as the whisperings suggest? "On the top end—with the best kids—it's probably bigger than ever," says Mark Warkentien, an assistant at Nevada-Las Vegas.

As long as improprieties continue—and the NCAA's caseload remains unmanageable—the questions of what the kid gets and who gets the kid have created a new realm of fan interest. In the same way the competition for Nielsen ratings is often more interesting than the programs TV networks put on the air, a school's chasing and signing of a certain recruit can make for a better story than what the team actually does with him. The prey's the thing.

Ain't Gonna Bump No More

When he cut the R & B record of that title, Joe Tex might as well have been singing about the NCAA rules that restrict the amount of "incidental contact" representatives of a school can have with a recruit. In 1977, Jeff Ruland considered Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Notre Dame and arriviste Iona. He chose Iona because of the dogged efforts of the Alphabet Man, Tom Abatemarco, then coach Jim Valvano's recruiter. Every day of Ruland's senior year Abatemarco would "bump" him—in person, with a phone call or a note under his windshield. No way an Iona beats out a field of big-timers for a Ruland today.

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