A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate to be in Indianapolis for an NCAA men’s basketball tournament mock selection exercise.
It was a highly organized, informative, exceptionally professional event. It was the NCAA at its big-time best.
Thursday, we were witness once again to the NCAA at its bureaucratic worst.
LSU’s football program was slapped with recruiting sanctions Thursday, burned by a recruit who changed his mind and triggered a bad rule from the vast, Byzantine, arcane NCAA rulebook.
All signs point to Mississippi offensive tackle Matt Womack, who committed to LSU early in the recruiting process and signed something called a financial aid agreement (FAA). That entitled LSU to unlimited contact with a recruit, way above the normal NCAA limits, which LSU coaches utilized.
But there’s a catch: If a player doesn’t eventually sign a national letter of intent with the school that gave him the FAA, that school is subject to the NCAA’s wrath.
That’s what happened to LSU. The Tigers lost Womack to Alabama — conspiracy fans will enjoy this latest proof of their theory that Nick Saban tries to shaft his former program any chance he gets — and found themselves afoul of the rule for impermissible contact.
There’s a legal term for a situation like this. Oh, what is it ... entrapment.
Some will blame Womack for flipping from LSU to Bama, but recruits do this all the time. Certainly the Tigers benefit from players flipping in their direction every year. No complaints from the LSU camp.
Some will blame LSU’s coaches for getting into what is inherently a risky situation. Certainly they knew (or should have known) they were opening themselves up to penalties by signing Womack to such an early agreement.
But LSU made the same deal with four players who did sign with the Tigers this year — including arguably its top prospect, Kevin Toliver II — and those didn’t blow up in their faces.
Ultimately, the blame falls on yet another needlessly convoluted NCAA rule. The FAA was instituted less than two years ago. While it was probably born of some good intentions somewhere along the way, it ultimately becomes ludicrous that a school can be penalized for something that was originally permissible.
LSU’s penalties? Truly nothing too serious. The Tigers will lose 21 of 210 off-campus prospect evaluation days this year. But most schools don’t use all of those evaluations anyway.
LSU also will not be allowed to sign any prospects to FAAs the next two years. That does hurt a bit, as rival schools will be allowed to sign players to those letters and have unlimited contact with them. But LSU will still be able to accept early enrollees like Toliver who can enter school in January and participate in spring practice.
But an early signing period for football seems likely, which would eliminate the possibility of more FAA issues. It could even happen before LSU finishes serving its penalties.
If there’s a silver lining to this situation, maybe in the end the “Womack fiasco” should shed more light on this ridiculous rule and hasten then arrival of early signing for football — something that should have happened long ago.
Say ... you don’t think the NCAA would layer an early football signing period with some unnecessary rules, do you?
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.