Monday, June 1, 2009

Fall out from "Big Cat Weekend"

As reported in Evan Woodbery's story in this morning's Mobile Press-Register, Auburn is reviewing whether or not secondary violations were committed Saturday night at Toomer's Corner.

An Auburn spokesperson confirmed the review Monday evening. None of the potential violations are considered serious and would almost certainly result in no punishment.

It sparks from last weekend when Auburn hosted 20-plus of the nation's top recruits on unofficial visits during its "Big Cat Weekend."

Many of the nation's top recruits were present, including the nation's top two running backs -- Lache Seastrunk and Marcus Lattimore. Various recruiting services list other recruits LB Khairi Fortt, WR Trovon Reed, OT James Stone and OG Eric Mack as top-five players nationally at their positions.

The potential violations stem from the 9 p.m. gathering at Toomer's Corner. There, a couple hundred excited Auburn fans awaited the recruits. Seven police officers were also on hand to ensure order. All staff members for Auburn recruiting web sites Inside The Auburn Tigers, and Auburn Undercover were also at the event, as was a videographer for The Opelika-Auburn News. I knew of the event as well and at the time I was across the street with a few colleagues.

By the time coaches Trooper Taylor and Curtis Luper (and perhaps more that didn't wind up in videos) made their way over with the recruits, fans had packed Toomer's Corner in anticipation. The crowd then proceeded to roll Toomer's Corner as done after football home victories.

The important question here is how did they all know to be there at 9 p.m. on Saturday night?

All three recruiting web sites posted the time and date of the Toomer's gathering on their message boards on Saturday. Local restaurant Niffer's also advertised the event on its sign.

That the sites and restaurant posted this information isn't the problem, rather how they obtained the information. Under NCAA guidelines, that information cannot be publicized by the coaching staff to the media.

Here's a look at the potential rules violations:
A member institution shall not permit a media entity to be present during any recruiting contact made by an institution’s coaching staff member. Violations of this bylaw do not affect a prospective student-athlete’s eligibility and are considered institutional violations per Constitution 2.8.1.

A member institution shall not publicize (or arrange for publicity of) a prospective student-athlete’s visit to the institution’s campus. Further, a prospective student-athlete may not participate in team activities that would make the public or media aware of the prospective student-athlete’s visit to the institution (e.g., running out of the tunnel with team, celebratory walks to or around the stadium/arena, on-field pregame celebrations). Violations of this bylaw do not affect a prospective student-athlete’s eligibility and are considered institutional violations per Constitution 2.8.1.

An institution may not introduce a visiting prospective student-athlete at a function (e.g., the institution’s sports award banquet or an intercollegiate athletics contest) that is attended by media representatives or open to the general public. Violations of this bylaw do not affect a prospective student-athlete’s eligibility and are considered institutional violations per Constitution 2.8.1.

First, it should be noted that these violations would be considered minor and would likely come with no punishment.

Of the potential violations, the first one seems to be the most likely to get reported. As mentioned earlier, all three web sites had their entire staffs at Toomer's Corner. All three posted pictures. and Auburn Undercover both posted video of the event as well, though the videos can no longer be found on either site. The OA News' video is still available on its web site.

Rule 13.10.5 must be proven -- something that would be difficult to do unless one of the recruiting web sites acknowledges where it obtained the information. Rule 13.10.6 can be interpreted in different ways, but my guess is since the person introducing the recruits at the pep rally event was not a member of the coaching staff, Auburn is not in violation of the rule.

Even if Auburn self-reports some violations -- which is still up in the air -- it would not result in any significant sanctions. All the potential violations would be considered secondary violations. Tennessee has self-reported four secondary violations since Lane Kiffin's arrival and has not received any punishment.

On another note, the fact that all the visits were unofficial means all players and any accompanying persons had to pay for the visit themselves. That should be viewed as a significant win for Auburn -- that 20-plus of the nation's top recruits wanted to visit Auburn even if it meant doing so on their own dime.

What that means is Auburn has become relevant again to the top prospects. These players want to check out Auburn for themselves and then decide if it's the place for them. As Taylor and Luper said upon getting to Auburn, that's the first step.

There's no doubt Auburn's new staff has made a name for itself on the recruiting trail. The next step is getting the targetted players to commit. Currently, the Tigers have four commitments for the 2010 class. reported that the weekend left favorable impressions on many of the visitors.

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