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USC's Pete Carroll and UCLA's Ben Howland speak out against NCAA recruiting rules

April 24, 2009 |  3:48 pm

See Pete Carroll's comments (above) or listen to Ben Howland (below).

Is the NCAA at war with its own coaches?

During unrelated sessions with media Friday, USC football Coach Pete Carroll and UCLA basketball Coach Ben Howland ripped into NCAA rules that limit their ability to recruit high school athletes. "I don't understand it," both coaches said in exasperation.

Carroll is still frustrated by a two-year-old rule prohibiting head football coaches from going on the road to recruit during the month of May. He was holding a news conference before the Trojans' spring football scrimmage when reporters asked about off-season plans for his program.

"I don't support it, will never support it, and if I knew how to do something about it I would," Carroll said about his campus-arrest that he once compared to being in the movie "Disturbia." Assistant coaches are still allowed to travel.

"I think it's a bad decision and I think it's a weak decision," he continued. "Head coaches get paid a lot of money to lead these programs. We should do all the work that we can. We shouldn't sit on our butts in the month of May."

Howland is upset with a new rule that prohibits all basketball coaches from visiting AAU games -- All-Star events held in April where the best high school athletes play against each other.

"Everybody's complaining about it on our side of the business," he said. "We're allowed to go to the high school of kids that are recruits, and watch them work out with their high school team and their high school coach. But all these kids are still going to AAU events. They leave on Fridays, so you can't even go and see anybody on Friday because nobody's there. Even Thursday, some of them have started to leave."

Instead of being able to see all the top talent go head-to-head, Howland noted that he's only been able to see one -- sometimes two -- recruits per day. "We're in a recession right now, and it's not cost effective," he argued. "You're not seeing the best play against the best ... it's not fair to the high school students. They're not getting the kind of exposure that they should get."

The rules grew out of two very different movements. Carroll can blame several of his colleagues, who lobbied for the restriction, for being stuck at home. Actually, he did. "I don't want to sound like a jerk," he said last year, "but other coaches ... they're just lazy." Howland supported Carroll's cause. "That rule's probably made by some head coaches who don't want to work hard," he observed Friday. "Pete Carroll wants to work hard and go out. So does [UCLA football coach] Rick Neuheisel. It's a crazy rule."

The push to keep basketball coaches off the road comes from another road that was paved with good intentions. "The reason that they changed the rules is that they didn't want the universities to have any involvement with kids missing class in the spring time," Howland explained. "But that hasn't changed one thing. These kids are out every week. We have nothing to do with that. They're continuing to be involved in these things. Whether or not the college coaches are allowed to go out does not change that one bit."

Unlike the restrictions on football coaches, Howland contends that a survey of basketball couches would find a "resounding" opinion that the anti-AAU rule doesn't benefit anybody.

The NCAA did not have anybody immediately available for comment.

-- Adam Rose

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