By Joel Weckerly, Sports Editor
Innocence in college athletics went out the door long ago, and with names like Eustachy, Price and Bliss earning headlines for the past year, that reality has been affirmed.
Now, thanks to a scandal at the University of Colorado, we know of the garbage that goes on at recruiting visits for high schoolers.
According to a report in this week’s is-sue of Sports Illustrated, se-veral CU players and recruits got drunk and high and had sexual intercourse-some non-consensual-with several women in an off-campus Boulder party in December 2001. The issue generated all the press this week because three of the females at the party recently filed federal lawsuits against the school.
The problem is, little or no accountability exists for re-cruiting visits. Coaches assign and give money to “host” players to entertain the recruits, then look the other way as 18-year-old kids are shown a world straight out of He Got Game.
“I was shocked,” ACU sophomore safety Danieal Manning said of his recruiting visit to the University of Nebraska when he was a senior at Corsicana High. “They said, ‘Here’s the money, you can do anything you want to.'”
According to Manning, some of the activities recruits participated in included heavy drinking, attending strip clubs and marijuana use. He said he instead suggested hanging out and playing video games or catching a movie.
“Some of the players were like, ‘Oh man, you’re sorry,'” Manning said. “But I knew what would happen if we got in trouble or got caught.”
In some cases, the atmosphere created by the host causes a recruit to turn away from that school.
When he went on a recruiting visit to the University of Texas, ACU senior quarterback Colby Freeman said some hosts wanted to get drunk and party on Austin’s Sixth Street, while others visited topless bars. Then a Brownwood High player, Freeman declined.
“I was miserable the whole night,” he said. “I ended up walking back to my hotel room. I knew I didn’t want to go to UT after that.”
An NCAA rule requires the hosts to submit receipts from money spent to the athletic department, but according to Freeman, the players are smarter than that.
“They’ll either use their own money or the recruit’s money on whatever they want, then go spend the department’s money on movies they’ll never watch,” he said. “So basically, they’ll bring receipts back that had nothing to do with what actually went on that night.”
Both Freeman and Manning said the coaches know what happens to an extent.
“I know when I woke up on Sunday, some guys’ eyes were red and you could smell [marijuana] on them,” Manning said. “It was obvious, but all the coaches ask is, ‘Did you have a good time?'”
Still, some coaches claim to have no knowledge of such practices. ACU head basketball coach Klint Pleasant, formerly an assistant at D-I schools Kent State and Tennessee-Martin, said the recruiting no-nos are more common at bigger-name schools.
“To my knowledge those kind of things didn’t happen,” Pleasant said. “If it would have happened, we certainly would have addressed it. Once something like that happens, it leaves a scar on the program as far as future recruits.”
At least ACU does it right. When Manning entertained his brother and a couple other recruits during an ACU visit several weeks ago, he had to call the coaches at a certain time to make sure the recruit was back in the hotel room, and had to turn in a report detailing what they did the night before and what kind of a person the recruit is. The system provides more accountability, at least, than a Blockbuster receipt.
However, one ACU player said “wild” parties still exist during recruiting visits.
“I’m not going say I know exactly what’s going at those parties, but let’s just say I wouldn’t take my recruit there.”
Innocence? Not hardly.