***UPDATE MARCH 8th, 2011: Delvon Simmons has reportedly asked to be released from his LOI (Letter of Intent) to the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. Not entirely sure as to why, but I’m sure it all may or may not come out eventually…***
***UPDATE March 10th, 2011: UNC is reportedly refusing to release Simmons from his LOI. This could get interesting…***
The dark, tempestuous cloud of investigations looming over Chapel Hill’s Kenan Stadium apparently isn’t a menacing enough threat to the sanctity of Tar Heel football. In fact, it appears Butch Davis’ program still doesn’t shy away from spitting into the NCAA’s wind.
As you may recall, UNC landed a big prospect when McKeesport, Pennsylvania’s Delvon Simmons signed his Letter of Intent on February 2nd, 2011. It was quite a National Signing Day coup.
Why a coup? Well, the 6’5″, 265 pound defensive tackle (Rivals’ #5 DT, #80 overall; Scout’s #3 DT, #15 overall; ESPN’s #25 DT, NR overall) had actually eliminated the Tar Heels only a couple weeks prior and — adding to the enigma of it all — never took an official visit to Chapel Hill.
Simmons’ coach, Jim Ward, even chipped in with a great quote to make the matter that much more curious, and just hours before National Signing Day: “I can tell you that UNC has been added. We had a meeting behind closed doors, and that is all I can say. The rest stays there.”
Seriously, now things were getting weird. At least strange enough to jokingly question whether former associate head coach, defensive line coach, and recruiting coordinator John Blake was still pulling some strings in Chapel Hill, right?
Well, with Blake long gone, the Tar Heels had actually just “hired” a new defensive line coach back on January 10th, 2011; securing the services of then Carolina Panthers defensive line coach, Brian Baker. With 15 years of NFL coaching experience, Baker was a huge addition to the Tar Heel coaching staff. But don’t take my word for it — here’s what Baker’s new boss had to say:
“Brian is regarded as one of the top defensive line coaches in the NFL and his experience was appealing because of his background as a college coach in the ACC,” said Davis. “He is an excellent communicator and his knowledge of our recruiting areas was critical.”
Indeed, Brain Baker coming on board just happened to coincide with Delvon Simmons’ change of heart towards the Tar Heels, and Rivals credits Baker for Simmons’ recruitment.
Less than a week after National Signing Day, however, in yet another bizarre twist, Brian Baker left UNC to take a position as a defensive line coach with the Dallas Cowboys. Hard to blame him, really — “huge” financial incentives often give rise to such winds of change, but that’s not the crux of the matter.
According to a University spokesman, Baker never signed a contract with UNC during his one month stay. In the “real world,” one might think that may or may not present a problem, but this is NCAA football — where rules and regulations are about as porous as Swiss cheese.
Still, as Carolina Sucks points out, there are several ostensibly relevant NCAA regs in play here:
184.108.40.206 Permissible Callers.
220.127.116.11.1 Institutional Coaching Staff Members General Rule.
All telephone calls made to and received from a prospective student-athlete (or the prospective student-athlete’s parents, legal guardians or coaches) must be made and received by the head coach or one or more of the assistant coaches who count toward the numerical limitations in Bylaw 11.7.4 (see Bylaw 18.104.22.168).
22.214.171.124.1 Representatives of Athletics Interests.
Representatives of an institution’s athletics interests (as defined in Bylaw 13.02.14) are prohibited from making telephonic communications with a prospective student-athlete or the prospective student-athlete’s relatives or legal guardians.
126.96.36.199.1 Employment Prohibition.
An institution may not employ an individual for the primary purpose of recruiting or evaluating prospective student-athletes and designate the individual as a coach if he or she does not reside in the institution’s general locale. Such an individual would be considered an athletics talent scout rather than a regular institutional staff member.
The problem for an aspiring conspiracy theorist, however, is the numerous other regs offering ways around what otherwise appears to be a blatant violation of NCAA by-laws.
First, there doesn’t appear to be any requirement that a college football “coach” work under a written contract:
A head or assistant coach is any coach who is designated by the institution’s athletics department to perform coaching duties and who serves in that capacity on a volunteer or paid basis.
The institution, as opposed to any outside source, shall remain in control of determining who is to be its employee and the amount of salary the employee is to receive within the restrictions specified by NCAA legislation.
Moreover, to recruit, a “coach” need only pass the certification exam required by regulation 188.8.131.52, and have have been registered as a countable coach within the permissible limits under regulation 11.7.4
For the sake of argument, I’m going to assume that Coach Baker received said certification and was appropriately listed as a “countable coach” for recruiting purposes. I’m also going to assume that Baker received some type of compensation, and that said compensation came from a NCAA sanctioned source.
Otherwise, he’d have to be considered a “volunteer,” right? And since the NCAA doesn’t allow “volunteer” coaches in football, well, that could be bad — especially considering “volunteer coaches” can’t recruit in the sports they are allowed to participate in:
…(a) The individual is prohibited from contacting and evaluating prospective student-athletes off campus or from scouting opponents off campus and may not perform recruiting coordination functions…
But, again, we’re operating under the assumption that Baker was an employed, non-volunteer “coach” for NCAA regulatory purposes during his 30-day tenure with the Tar Heels. That said, as I think it’s safe to assume that every other position coach on UNC’s staff is under contract, Baker being a contract-free defensive line coach (in contrast to predecessor John Blake, I might add) still remains a minor oddity at the very least.
Does the “Employment Prohibition” under 184.108.40.206.1 snag the Tar Heels here, though? That is, did Baker ever “reside in the institution’s general locale” ?
Given the NCAA fails to define “general locale,” it’s hard to say — but perhaps 220.127.116.11′s 30-mile radius rule regarding off-campus recruiting activities by institutional staff members during official visits provides adequate guidance.
Under that assumption, I guess Baker would have had to land roughly somewhere between Raleigh and Burlington, east to west; Roxboro and Sanford, north to south. Certainly something for the lovable “Carolina conspiracy theorists” out there to track down.
Either way, and notwithstanding Carolina’s guilt or innocence in this matter, one has to question the timing of it all, no? I mean, is it possible that Baker’s hiring, Simmons’ remarkable change of heart, and Baker’s premature departure is just a ostensibly nefarious, yet innocent coincidence? Yes. Absolutely.
In fact, on its own, the whole Brian Baker – Delvon Simmons saga probably doesn’t merit much in the realm of pernicious inquisition. On the heels of all the other reprobate activities alleged to have taken place in Chapel Hill as of late, however, I think it’s — at best — an irretrievably questionable curiosity.
Again, h/t to Carolina Sucks for the initial inquiry