Spillergate: Story advances, with a real story
The Anderson Independent-Mail has a detailed follow-up to the published rumor about Clemson declaring shenanigans on Florida for trying to steal star prep running back C.J. Spiller from the Tigers. Clemson coach Tommy Bowden even stepped up to the handheld tape recorder for a quote or two.
We now know that the player who went to visit Spiller in order to persuade him to sign with the Gators was hot-shot quarterback Tim Tebow. And, apparently, contrary to a comment I left at Everyday Should Be Saturday, this incident, if true, would, indeed, be an NCAA violation, because Tebow had already enrolled with the Gators when he made his visit. That makes him an official representative of the school.
Now, I think it's entirely possible that Tebow did this on his own without realizing the implications. Does the Gators coaching staff conduct an in-depth seminar on the intricacies of the NCAA's labyrinthine recruiting rules with its brand-new signees? Doubtful. What's more likely is that Tebow, who had apparently developed a friendship with Spiller during the recruiting process, took it upon himself to visit Spiller.
Of course, something more nefarious is possible as well, and if Urban Meyer or any other member of the UF coaching staff ordered this move, then the Gators deserve whatever penalties they'd get, which, in this day and age, would probably not be too severe.
But the more I've thought about this, the more I don't like this whole story. First, it's a fairly serious charge, but it just kind of popped up as a throwaway item in the middle of a three-dot column, the lamest, most hackish set piece in the sportswriter's arsenal. Five days later, it gets the imprimatur of a bylined, straight-news story.
I don't know who comes off worse: Clemson's coaching staff, for letting this accusation regarding a player who signed with the Tigers anyway slither into the public square when they should have just let the NCAA go about its business, or the Anderson Independent-Mail, for running a self-serving rumor and then waiting five days to do an actual news story with, like, facts and quotes and stuff.
One more thing, and I think this is kind of important: Clemson's recruiting record under Bowden has been on the up-and-up, and he is to be commended for that. In fact, the Tigers haven't been busted for a major recruiting violation since 1992.
Well, it sure as hell better stay that way. He's just invited every school in the South that Clemson competes with for recruits to do to the Tigers what he did to Florida.
UPDATE|: Welcome EDSBS readers. An update to this post is here.