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It’s official — college hoops has an unofficial visit issue

Oct 3, 2011, 8:40 AM EDT

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College sports has an unofficial problem looming – unofficial visits.

As USC football coach Lane Kiffin deals with allegations of a man paying for an official visit to visit Tennessee and then-coach Kiffin in 2009, the unofficial visit is gaining more notice among fans. It’s a good thing for transparency among college sports and not so much for those trying to manipulate the NCAA rule.

As this story by Pete Thamel of the N.Y. Times details, the unofficial visit – recruits can make an unlimited number of unofficial visits, but have to pay their own way; they can make five official visits paid by schools – doesn’t receive much scrutiny as to who paid for it. There isn’t as much NCAA documentation and little oversight.

“Behind the scenes in college basketball, people will tell you that the unofficial visit is one of the bigger problems facing recruiting right now,” ESPN basketball recruiting analyst Dave Telep told the paper. “It’s a place where things can be easily manipulated by third parties. At the same time, I have no idea how you can fix it.”

The official visit is the showcase when schools parade around recruits during their senior year. Unofficial visits? They’re for seeing how much a school really cares. Nearly all of the top 100 2012 recruits have made unofficial visits, according to research by Drew Cannon. That usually means airfare, lodging, meals, etc. Who’s paying for it?

“The thought or concept that coaches don’t really know what’s going on isn’t an accurate reflection of reality,” NCAA official Newman Baker told the Times said. “I’m not buying that.”

If the NCAA has it way, it’ll know more in the future.

The NCAA is contemplating rule changes this month that would allow schools to fly juniors to campus for official visits, which may cut down on unofficial visits later on.  And then they’ll have to figure out new ways to bend the rules.

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