But the preponderance of another trend has reared its ugly head again most recently — programs luring big-name recruits by bringing on their family members as assistant coaches. Last week, Washington hired Michael Porter to be an assistant coach.
Seems simple enough. But there’s a catch.
Porter’s son, Michael Porter Jr., is one of the highest-rated recruits in the nation, ranking third in ESPN’s rankings of the Class of 2017 on the back of impressive size and ball handling to go with a silky smooth jump.
The younger Porter is considering schools such as Duke, Kentucky and Kansas — all powerhouses, all likely to set him up for the NBA. Now, however, it’d have to be thought of as an upset if he didn’t end up joining his dad with the less well-regarded Huskies.
This is nowhere near the first time a men’s basketball program hired a father before scoring his son’s commitment. More than 30 years ago, Kansas made Danny Manning’s father a part of the staff and secured the future first overall pick. In 2005, the Jayhawks struck again, hiring Ronnie Chalmers, whose son, Mario, would soon become a Kansas legend. And at Memphis, John Calipari hired the father of heralded recruit Dajuan Wagner before grabbing the young wing’s commitment.
And of course, this isn’t just happening in men’s basketball, with football programs hiring parents and high school coaches left and right.
Although many of the parents — including nearly everyone mentioned thus far — hired could credibly have ended up on college coaching staffs, their hiring opens a pandora’s box. Top recruits can market themselves as package deals, only willing to join teams that will hire their father. Essentially, the next Andrew Wiggins could see his parent be the subject of a bidding war.
And that is a crucial piece of the puzzle. The current rules are set up so student-athletes can’t be paid, but this procedure provides athletic programs yet another means of getting around that rule. What better way to pay a player than to just funnel money into the family through a parent?
Now the real problem there isn’t that a student-athlete would essentially be getting paid to join a certain team, but rather that access to this privilege is not accessible to every recruit. The parents who get hired by teams have almost always had experience coaching in at least the high school ranks. But most recruits, including many whose families need the money the most, are not so lucky.
Without an adult in the household that teams can hire without arousing too much suspicion, these kids are left in the lurch. So the only way for players from low-income households to get money is to break NCAA rules by getting money from boosters or agents. But if and when the news gets out about these players, they’re treated like criminals and their team is punished.
The real solution, albeit a bit of a pipe dream for now, is to establish a more equitable system in which student-athletes are free to seek compensation for their play. This can mean allowing players to get sponsorships while still in college or simply letting them sell their autographs. Tight-fisted athletic departments, most of which claim they aren’t profitable, wouldn’t have to foot the dime at all.
On paper, hiring a player’s parent is not against the rules. It may raise some eyebrows, but it certainly won’t lead to any fines or postseason bans. And the record speaks for itself: Hiring a parent helps you land their kid.
So what’s wrong?
When something feels wrong and unjust but it’s not against the rules, the rules are probably what’s wrong.