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WVU football: NCAA manual needs to shed a few pounds

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Dana Holgorsen is sitting in his office one day and leans back in his chair, folds his arms behind his head and remembers West Virginia's 10 touchdowns in the Orange Bowl.

The head coach snaps out of that rare moment of reflection, rises from his seat and goes to the mini-fridge full of Red Bull.


He walks down the hall and grabs one from an assistant coach's office. Back in his chair, Holgorsen cracks the can, takes a sip and puts his drink of choice on his desk. It's right next to his cellphone, which he notices is blinking. He's missed a call and someone left a voicemail.

That someone happens to be a 6-foot-5 receiver from Odessa, Texas, the one guy the Mountaineers really want for the 2013 recruiting class.

The receiver wants to tell Holgorsen something too important for voicemail and asks the coach to call him back. Now.

One problem: The NCAA rules prohibit Holgorsen from making that call.  

Undeterred, Holgorsen does what any 21st century coach does. He gets on Twitter and fires off a direct message to the receiver. He gets on Facebook and sends the kid a private message. Then he closes with an email. Each has the same message: "NCAA says I can't call you, but you can call me. Now."

Two ticks later, the phone rings. Problem solved. NCAA protection usurped.

Some time later, offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson is at a high school track meet to see a sprinter the Mountaineers believe can be a great cornerback. Dawson sees he's not alone. A coach from a rival Big 12 school has the same bright idea.

The meet ends, and the sprinter sees both Dawson and the rival coach. There are no words exchanged, just glances, because the NCAA won't allow any communication. As everyone leaves the stadium, the rival coach makes his move and "accidentally" bumps into the sprinter.

They exchange greetings because the NCAA has a bump rule that lets the two do so in such a situation. The rival coach has just enough time to say hello to the sprinter, who certainly doesn't know the rule, and then say something snarky about how Dawson and WVU must not be interested, even though Dawson followed the rules.

Problem (for the Mountaineers) created. NCAA protection again usurped.

There are so many rules and so many ways to work around what's found in the NCAA's 426-page manual that surely we need more governance.

"I hope," said Ryan Dorchester, WVU's coordinator of recruiting operations, "there's some deregulation on a lot of stuff."

If you think Dorchester is some sort of rebel, you'd be right as long as you consider Mark Emmert, the guy who runs the NCAA, to be the leader of the rebellion. He wants to review the NCAA Division I Manual and help it lose a few pounds.

So, yes, in so many ways, the best way to help with governance is to eliminate rules.

"Some of the rules that govern contact - how you can get a hold of a prospect, the phone call limitations, all that stuff - with Facebook and email, communication is virtually seamless now," Dorchester said.

"But you've still got rules that say when a kid can call you but you can't call them. I just think you need to do away with a lot of it. It's just unnecessary rules, in my opinion, and makes it harder than it needs to be."

Behind rules are good intentions, but not always the best execution. Another example? The NCAA is encouraging schools to offer four-year scholarships. For decades, scholarships stood as one-year pacts between school and student-athlete that the school could renew at the end of each academic year.

The four-year model merely guarantees four (or five) years as opposed to one, and it makes sure a coach isn't booting an underachieving player in favor of a new one. But the coach still can terminate it for many of the same reasons he would terminate a one-year contract. If a player steps out of line, he's probably stepping off campus. Again, it's a good idea but not really necessary.

"We don't run kids out of here unless they do something to deserve it, so it's not really going to change much from our standpoint," Dorchester said. "Every kid we sign, we hope to bring back. We want kids who sign to stay here and graduate. We want to keep the program filled. When you start losing too many guys, you run into depth concerns."

There is one area where the NCAA could remove complications by actually adding.

The early-signing period has been on the table for years now, but no one has gotten his hands around it. Yet if a kid like WVU's Jarrod Harper, who grew up in Frostburg, Md., as a huge Mountaineers fan and was the first player to commit to the 2012 class, wants to sign early, then why not let him? If it works in November in basketball, then why not in, say, July in football?

For now, a kid can commit whenever he wants and then has to put up with everything that follows. Recruiting services, newspaper reporters, coaches from other colleges, fans from different schools, everyone from that walk of life seeks to gauge and sometimes influence the player's decision before he signs in February. The Mountaineers actually encourage committed players to program things like "Do Not Answer" in their cellphones for persistent recruiting reporters.

"People offer kids at a younger and younger age now, but this would slow it down and make teams be a lot more selective and not go out and offer every kid," Dorchester said.

"If you're a kid sitting there and teams say, 'Yeah, we're going to offer you a scholarship,' and then a little later you say, yes, you want to sign there and the school says, 'No, no, not anymore,' then what kind of message is that sending? If you really want a kid, you let him sign. That will make teams more selective and alleviate some of the pressure on kids."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at or 304-319-1142. His blog is at


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