There are lots of horror stories about the old days of recruiting, when rich boosters dollars and sports cars and houses and whatever else at young, impressionable recruits, all the for the pleasure of enjoying a win or two on fall Saturdays.
It's sort of insane, when you think about it. In the modern recruiting era, the most unethical violations typically occur because of loopholes -- it's not illegal, for example, to give a kid's parent a paid speaking gig at a summer basketball camp, even if, say, that parent never actually speaks. (Or shows up to the camp.) But this is the world we live in. College sports are awesome until you think too hard about them.
This is also the world we live in: Notre Dame was forced to stop a group of students from purchasing and distributing leis as a way of greeting 2009 uber-recruit Manti Te'o to ND's campus this weekend. Which is, for our purposes, both funny and sad:
Notre Dame students hatched a plan to distribute about 8,000 leis outside Notre Dame Stadium at Saturday's game against Syracuse in honor of Te'o's visit, posting that plan on a fan Web site. The problem? A concerted, organized effort such as that could be construed as an NCAA violation in which Notre Dame is publicizing a recruit's visit to campus and encouraging that recruit to attend the school. Once the Notre Dame compliance office received a missive about the plan, it bid the idea aloha.
"I received a communication from somebody wanting to do something — and you can gather what that is — to show support and encouragement for a prospect that may be visiting," Notre Dame compliance director Mike Karwoski said Thursday. "I responded back saying, we don't think this is permissible, and this is why we don't think it's permissible."
What makes this funny? For one, the idea that college kids would spend their time and beer money on the purchase and distribution of Hawaiin leis. We don't know why, but the notion of 8,000 Notre Dame fans wearing leis in the bitter cold this Saturday appeals to us.
What makes this sad? The idea that Notre Dame had to quash this in the first place. We understand they had to do it, but is there a better representation of the silliness of the NCAA than that? Manti Te'o has likely been recruited by every major college football program in the country. Are we really to believe that a bunch of kids wearing costume-shop leis would unduly sway his decision? Do we really think Te'o hasn't already been privy to far, far worse?
No, we don't. It doesn't really make sense. But then, this is the NCAA we're talking about, and "making sense" has never been one of its many requirements.