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Unofficial visits a 'necessary evil' in college football

By Cody Stavenhagen, Staff Writer Published: June 28, 2014
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“I think it is what it is,” he said. “Some people ain’t got it like other people got it. That’s why you have to work hard to get out of it.”

Warren Wand, a running back from Edmond Memorial, is trying to prove himself to schools. That’s why he took the initiative to ask Southern Miss coaches if he could visit over spring break.

“You have to show interest,” Wand said. “They show interest in you, you want to show interest back for them to know you might like to come to their school. That way maybe they’ll keep showing interest.”

This can be catch-22 for recruits in a position where college coaches hold the power. They want recruits younger and younger, athletes are pressured to pay for big camps and to take visits. Especially for players such as Wand trying to make a name for themselves, choosing not to can have consequences.

However, choosing to do all that doesn’t come with guarantees.

“It can put kids in a bind,” said Jody Jordan, McGruder’s coach at Alief Taylor. “I had one kid that went all the way to somewhere, they encouraged him to go, and he went there and then they never offered him.”

That’s why unofficial visits are one of the NCAA’s biggest problems. Violations involving coaches or facilitators paying for recruits to visit schools have been going on for years.

Hensley said from what he’s seen, the NCAA is trying to crack down. He said coaches aren’t breaking rules, but they are finding loopholes.

“They work the system,” Hensley said. “They put out the biggest spread you’ll ever see of every food you could possibly think of for $6, because $6 is the NCAA minimum.”

Mike Fecci, who coaches four-star OSU commit Ronald Jones at McKinney North in Texas, encourages his top players to take unofficials if at all possible.

“I think unofficial visits are vital, and I mean that because you’re not going to buy a car or house without looking at it first,” Fecci said. “You’re not going to go buy something like that just because you heard it’s good. But I don’t think it’s right that only the rich kids get to do that.”

The problem with players waiting until they become eligible for officials is that in today’s game, top recruits commit as juniors, and coaches are already planning to allocate those scholarships.

Jones, though, thinks he has a solution.

“I just think they should move the date for officials up to the summer or even March to give kids like me an opportunity to visit out-of-state so they can make a fully educated decision,” Jones said.

Those involved from the high school perspective agree the system is broken. But in a college football world ruled filled with scandal and controversy, there’s not always an easy fix.

“I think (unofficials) are a necessary evil,” Fecci said. “I just wish there was a way they could pay for something.”