MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — West Virginia football coach Neal Brown, who has lost some key players in the transfer portal such as starting safety Tykee Smith and starting cornerback Dreshun Miller, says that he’s had players tampered with by other coaches and that Power 5 college football is evolving toward a professional football mentality.
Brown made the charges a couple of days ago on an interview on Sirius XM Sports Radio.
“It’s going to be impossible to police this tampering,” Brown said “And so, there’s just not going to be a way. We’ve had guys that have left here that have been tampered with and I know it, but I can’t prove it.”
College recruiting of high school players has always walked a tightrope between right and wrong, between telling outright lies, making promises, even paying off players and their families to come to your school.
In 1999 Alabama was slammed by the NCAA and in court after it was proven that at least $150,000 was paid to defensive lineman Albert Means’ high school coach to deliver him to the school.
And the most blatant scandal arose in the late 1970s when SMU built its program by paying players, leading to it becoming one of the top teams in the 1980s. However, in 1987 they were handed the NCAA’s death penalty, having to cancel their 1987 and 1988 seasons.
In the midst of the scandal was the recruitment of all-time great NFL running back Eric Dickerson, half of their “Pony Express” backfield with Craig James.
Now Brown’s accusations do not go that far, but one school is not supposed to be able to tamper with players from other schools until they declare they are looking to transfer and enter the transfer portal, a vehicle that has changed college football.
Brown sees the tampering growing and continuing.
“I think it’s going to happen more and more around college football,” he said. “Here’s what I think we’re getting into — for better or worse — is we’re looking now where your team is year-to-year. And so, very much a pro mindset where you’re never really going to know exactly who’s your roster until you get to fall camp,” Brown said in the interview.
“Your signals and all that kind of stuff are going to have to — you’re going to have to redo year-to-year, just like the pros do,” Brown continued. “And because in the NFL, free agency, waivers and all that kind of stuff — the roster is continually turned over and you’re going to play multiple people that were on your roster the year before.
“So, it just becomes a year-to-year mindset. And I think that’s what’s going to happen in Power 5 college football as well.”
The sport has become so big, the money so extensive that the school depends upon it at the upper levels of the game. Most sports other than football and men’s basketball are supported by the money raised from the two main athletic teams and you can’t get a better recruitment tool for students and the tuition and fees they pay — to say nothing of the donations that come after they graduate — than a strong football team.
The temptation is there for the school to turn its head on any unethical practices, if not encourage it, and coaches are now paid so much money that the risk/reward calculation tips toward the risk end.
What’s more, the NCAA is terribly shorthanded in the enforcement arena and, like the schools, has so much at stake financially by having talented players spread throughout the game to create such events as the NCAA Basketball Tournament and the College Football Playoff that it doesn’t have a strong incentive to stop what Brown says is going on.
Almost everything now is being done for television, with the networks ever more involved in scheduling and expanding their grasp on the sports to the point that West Virginia’s spring game was televised nationally on ESPN+ and that Brown tried to spice it up in part to create a stronger television show.