Great athletes are in demand at lots of colleges and universities — the University of North Carolina, for example. Caleb Pressley, now 22, was a quarterback there. He was recruited, and he helped recruit three other quarterbacks:
"I was never put in a situation where a coach told me, 'Hey, you need to take this guy out to this bar,' or 'you need to take him to a fraternity,' or 'you need to make sure he’s with a girl,'" Pressley said. "It’s just kinda like, they look at you, 'Hey, you gonna show him a good time?' And you say, 'I’ll show him a good time,' and they kind of wink at you, like, 'All right, man. Go out there and get ‘em. Have him here tomorrow. Just keep him safe.'”
They kind of wink at you, like, 'All right, man. Go out there and get ‘em. Have him here tomorrow. Just keep him safe.'Caleb Pressley, former UNC quarterback
"We never got to go to Beijing," Melissa said. "We never did some of the amazing things the coach said we were going to do to kind of woo me to go there."
The pressure to show recruits a good time seems to have crossed the line into unlawful behavior at Louisville, where women were reportedly paid by then-graduate assistant Andre McGee to strip and have sex with men’s basketball recruits at parties on campus. Pressley was perhaps not surprised when that story broke:
"I don’t want to say the Louisville thing is standard, because I don’t think that’s true," he said. "But I think it sheds light onto what the landscape of college recruiting looks like."
We’re not going to get into the sordid details of the Louisville scandal — the internet is a fine resource if you want to do that — but, to explore the bigger picture of college recruiting, Bill Littlefield was joined by Yahoo Sports columnist Pat Forde.
BL: Let’s pretend I’m a high school senior who’s really good at a sport, say basketball. The NCAA allows me to take expenses-paid visits to five different colleges. Each visit can last as long as 48 hours. How am I going to spend most of my time?
PF: You are going to spend most of your time watching practice, talking to academic-support people, nutrition people, strength and conditioning [people]. You will tour facilities, and then, at like 9 on Friday night and Saturday night, that's when the action happens.
BL: And who leads me to the action?
PF: Usually you are with a student host, but the student hosts are directed by a staff member in some capacity.
BL: I want to make sure I'm completely clear on this: I'm spending at least a fair portion of my time after dark, unsupervised, with current college undergraduates coached by somebody who really wants me to come to their school…What could possibly go wrong?
PF: Yeah, well, you know, what's the nearest and dearest way to dazzle a lot of teenage men? It's, "Hey, here's where we go to hang out to party, and here's where the women are."
BL: Louisville is taking the heat for this particular scandal, but is it the system that's really broken rather than Louisville's own system?
You will tour facilities, and then, at like 9 on Friday night and Saturday night, that's when the action happens.Pat Forde, Yahoo Sports
BL: Should recruiting rules be changed?
PF: Well, I don't know for sure what exactly you say. Do you say you can't have recruits interact with females? I mean, it should be fairly common sense: you don't want them interacting with prostitutes, right? But, beyond that, what can they not do? Can they go to parties or not? Can they go to an entertainment area or not? That would seem like a hard thing to be able to say, "No, you can't do."
BL: Does it really seem likely that Louisville's head coach Rick Pitino didn't know what was going on? These guys know everything, right? They're control freaks!
PF: For 25 years I've been around him, and he seems as shocked, blindsided, frustrated as you can be by this. He's either faking it really well — and this is a guy I've known for a quarter-century — or he didn't know. Now, he's not as hands-on, especially in recruiting, as he once was, and I think that's led to some of the mistakes he's made in recruiting, because he's maybe relying too much on the input from other people. So, while a lot of people will obviously roll eyes and raise eyebrows at this, I don't think he knew.
Editor's Note: A Wellesley spokesperson refutes the claim that the tennis coach promised a team trip to Beijing. Per athletic policy, the spokesman noted, no such promises are made to any current or prospective student-athlete.
This segment aired on October 24, 2015.