Do colleges cheat in recruiting athletes?

There’s always been the saying in sport that if you’re ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying. So I guess sports fans think college coaches try a lot. The fact that over half of those surveyed think colleges cheat in recruiting is pretty amazing. That only 35% think they don’t cheat is even more so. But given the number of high profile scandals over the past, well, as long as anyone cares to remember, the assumption is fairly well grounded in the rhetoric.

If you assumed youth to be more idealistic, you’d be wrong. Those under 45 were even more likely to assume rule breaking, with 75% believing it true. Perhaps America’s youth are more cynical than optimistic. Perhaps more likely is that younger sports fans are far more intensely tuned into all forms of media, but social media in particular. That means they hear story after story (and tweet after tweet) of things gone awry. And if you hear enough bad news, you eventually start to assume the worst. So maybe that’s part of what’s at play. Whether most programs cheat or not is fairly irrelevant. That enough have, and that we’ve heard about it – that’s enough to likely drive these poll numbers.

But even as disheartening as these numbers may be, there’s an interesting dissonance to be found. While over half believe cheating is common, they all identify themselves as college sports fans. So perhaps the reality is that a whole lot of sports fans may just not care all that much about cheating, at least cheating in recruiting. In other words, illicit recruiting is simply part of the game.

That said, the NCAA, college presidents, and anyone else otherwise associated with big time college sports couldn’t be happy with these results. They spend a whole lot of time and effort enforcing a rulebook that protects every pretense of the construct of amateur athletics. A whole lot of schools, coaches, and athletes have paid a severe price for breaking these rules – like Kansas State’s Jamar Samuels did for taking $200 from a family friend, something that cost him his last game as a college athlete. So to think that most people assume the NCAA isn’t doing a good job in this very public pursuit of relative justice can’t sit well. However, maybe this could be useful information in reforming the NCAA rulebook, an ongoing process that’s sorely overdue.  Click here for poll results and here for video commentary.