This lead from Tom Witosky's copyrighted story in Sunday's Des Moines Register set up fodder for sports bloggers across the planet:
The University of Iowa has admitted NCAA recruiting violations that involve husband-wife film stars Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore.
That's a flame that attracted a lot of moths from the blogosphere and so-called mainstream media.
It's certainly not the kind of story first-year Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery would have written himself to draw attention to a program that isn't otherwise on the national map.
Show-biz folk caused possible NCAA recruiting violations! To cut the Hollywood couple a break, it's highly doubtful either of the two had read the NCAA recruiting manual any time recently.
But is this story really anything other than fodder for mockery from the rest of the world?
The fact Iowa athletic officials allowed two high school recruits (Josh Oglesby of Cedar Rapids Washington and Marcus Paige of Linn-Mar) to meet Kutcher, Moore and several former Hawkeye basketball players (Reggie Evans, Dean Oliver) on a recruiting visit sounds to many like business as usual in college recruiting.
Well, not the Ashton/Demi part, but you get the idea.
This is from Harrison Barnes' 2009 recruiting diary for highschoolhoop.com:
After that we went to a team tailgate in the practice gym. There were a lot of parents of the players there and Coach Williams and we all ate together so it was real cool. A lot of the pro guys were there, too, and I got a chance to talk with them about their experiences. Like Vince Carter, you could tell he missed it and he really loves Carolina. He was real aggressive about why I should want to go to Carolina. I got to meet George Karl, Larry Brown… There were a lot of really important people from there that I got to meet. ...
And North Carolina Coach Roy Williams enlisted the services of a rather well-known former Tar Heel while recruiting Barnes, as this Chicago Tribune story details.
Barnes, a senior from Ames, Iowa, who is considered the top high school player in the country by many, was on a visit to North Carolina with his mother, Shirley Barnes, when he first met Michael Jordan.
"Coach (Roy) Williams called Harrison into a room and said, ‘I want you to meet someone,'" Shirley said. "So after Harrison met him he said, ‘The only thing that ruined it was my mom squealing like a school girl in the background.'"
Barnes is now a North Carolina freshman.
The Iowa-Iowa State game that Kutcher, Moore, Oglesby and Paige attended was on Sept. 11. Four days later, the NCAA sent Iowa a letter raising questions, and requiring the school to get statements from both recruits regarding their visits.
In his reply to the NCAA, Iowa associate atheltics director Fred Mims said "The university believes that violations did occur," his letter says. "These violations were inadvertent and steps have been taken to ensure it will not recur."
From Witosky's story:
"The university is remorseful that these violations occurred," Fred Mims, associate athletic director, wrote in a letter on Oct. 1 to the NCAA. "We believe they were the result of sloppy management by our basketball staff."
Sloppy management. That's quite a statement, don't you think? Was that to appease the NCAA, or is it a genuine feeling about the way McCaffery and his staff handled or didn't handle that Saturday in Iowa City? I'm guessing appeasement.
If this is the one and only NCAA violation in the McCaffery era, it is a great big nothing. Kutcher and Moore were in the arena that Saturday, casuing an excited scene. The recruits gravitated to them, the basketball staff that was present didn't put the kibosh on the deal because it would have caused a scene ...
It's a very believable, understandable scenario if that's how it played out, and that's how Mims presented it to the NCAA after meeting with the basketball staff.
But you've got to be vigilant with this stuff. A "minor violation" is like a "minor surgery." It's not minor when you're the one getting it. It's not good to have "NCAA violation" and your school in the same paragraph of the same story in USA Today, the Seattle Times, or the biglead.com.
But all's well that end's well, I guess. Monday afternoon, the University of Iowa put out this release:
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The NCAA has accepted the University of Iowa’s response related to activities involving two recruits of its men’s basketball program during a recent visit to the UI campus. As part of that decision, the NCAA has fully cleared the recruits involved, and has determined the UI’s actions to be of a “secondary” nature in terms of violation of NCAA policy.
Two recruits of the UI men’s basketball program met two former student-athletes of the UI and two celebrities while on the UI campus for the Iowa-Iowa State football game in September.
“We have a culture of full compliance with NCAA rules and regulations at the University of Iowa. Every member of our staff has and always will take this responsibility very seriously,” said Gary Barta, the UI’s director of athletics.
“The commitment to doing things the right way is one of the many reasons why we hired Fran McCaffery and why we are excited about the staff he’s assembled. They are all focused on having their teams compete for championships and their student-athletes graduate, and to accomplish both the right way,” Barta added.
Barta said he was pleased that the NCAA accepted the results of the UI’s investigation of the activities and, by virtue of its ruling, that it agreed with the UI’s assertion that the actions by UI staff were unintentional and accidental.
So, problem solved. Oglesby has since committed to Iowa, by the way. Paige? He's being recruited by a lot of major-college programs. Including North Carolina.
And the Iowa football program has been found guilty of a secondary NCAA rules violation, as detailed here. What does this mean? Again, a great big nothing.
All those darn rules, huh?