Rabalais: With a phone call, John Chavis took the wrong way out of LSU _lowres

Advocate file photo by BILL FEIG -- Former LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis

The photograph from Kris Boyd’s Twitter feed is dated Jan. 15.

It shows the Gilmer, Texas, football prospect standing in a room at Gilmer High School, arm in arm with former LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis, along with three other people.

Chavis is wearing a Texas A&M pullover. Everyone is smiling their hashmarks off.

Such a happy picture, though I think pretty soon it’s going to be the folks at LSU who will be doing the smiling/doubling over in laughter.

Boyd eventually signed with Texas, but that’s not the point here.

The point is Chavis was apparently off campus recruiting for Texas A&M during the time he claims he wasn’t actually employed by A&M.

The claim is the crux of Chavis lawsuit against LSU (and Texas A&M, amusingly) that argues he does not owe LSU the $400,000 buyout for breaking his contract. He said he didn’t actually start working for Texas A&M until Feb. 13, his official hire date in College Station, after giving LSU a 30-day notice that expired Feb. 4.

But there’s a problem here for Chavis and A&M. And that problem is NCAA Bylaw 11.7.

That NCAA rule states that “An individual who coaches and either is uncompensated or receives compensation or remuneration of any sort from the institution, even if such compensation or remuneration is not designated for coaching, shall be designated as a head coach, assistant coach, volunteer coach, graduate assistant coach or student assistant coach by certification of the institution.”

A Division I football program can have a total of 10 coaches conduct off-campus recruiting. If Chavis was out recruiting for A&M in January, he was by definition one of its designated recruiters. That means he was representing A&M’s interests whether he was an according to Hoyle employee or not. And if he was representing A&M, then he would seem to be violation of his contract with LSU, meaning he (or A&M, which has agreed to pay his buyout if necessary) owes LSU $400,000.

If he wasn’t one of A&M’s designated recruiters, then he’s a booster. A booster in a maroon Texas A&M shirt. And that’s an NCAA violation.

I won’t say there isn’t a possibility of some legal wriggling out of this situation for Chavis and A&M. There’s legal and there’s what’s right, and the two aren’t always identical. The theory that Chavis was serving A&M as a recruiter for free on his own accord could eventually play well with the right judge or jury.

But on the face of it, it’s either one or another. Either A&M cuts LSU a check for $400,000 to satisfy the terms of his buyout clause or someone (LSU perhaps? Hmmm.) turns A&M in for recruiting violations.

I can’t believe A&M would be so foolish as to let Chavis go out and visit recruits on its behalf without considering he was a recruiter for them, paid or unpaid. For a moneybags program like Texas A&M, NCAA sanctions cost more than $400,000.

I’m also surprised the Southeastern Conference office hasn’t stepped in by now, tired of seeing two of its member schools wage a very public legal battle, and told them to reach a settlement. “Hey, A&M and Chavis,” the SEC could say. “Cut LSU a check for $200,000. LSU, you accept it. We’ll buy everyone a round of drinks in Destin at the Spring Meeting, shake hands and be done with it.”

But that hasn’t happened and doesn’t seem like it’s about to happen. So the wrangling goes on.

But it can only go so far. Thanks to one smiling photo of John Chavis with a recruit who fittingly got away to Texas A&M’s ancient rival.

A moveable feast

Think because LSU’s athletic department pays all of its own bills that the slashing and burning of higher education funding isn’t going to affect the Tigers?

Think again.

LSU announced Tuesday the construction of its long-anticipated Tiger Athletics Nutrition Center will be postponed indefinitely.

Construction on it was supposed to begin in April. But because of the unseemliness of building another athletic palace while the academic side of the university is crumbling, the athletic department has decided to postpone said construction for now.

The athletic department has raised the money. That’s not the problem. The nutrition center will get built eventually. The problem is building a four-star restaurant while your neighbor is struggling to pay for his groceries.

Image, as they say, is everything.

Most SEC schools have or have plans to build a nutrition center. Oregon already has a fancy one, which bears a sign over the serving line that encourages Ducks athletes to “Eat Your Enemies – And The Other Food Groups.”

Whether LSU’s athletes truly need a dedicated nutrition facility is a matter for worthwhile debate another time. But what isn’t debatable is that Louisiana’s lack of commitment to higher education is starting to impact whether LSU will be able to land some high-profile commitments in a tangible, brick and mortar way.

For more on the Nutrition Center, go to theadvocate.com/sports/lsu/11751381-123/construction-of-lsu-nutrition-center

Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.