Sports Law • Risk Management

October 31, 2010: Halloween Trick? Celebrities and Potential College Recruits Don't Mix

On this Halloween the University of Iowa is not getting a holiday treat, but instead a reminder that celebrities and potential athlete recruits don’t mix. Or at least they shouldn’t mix. Just today the Des Moines Register posted an article about two particular Hollywood celebrities, Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, whose involvement in the recruiting process may amount to a NCAA violation at the University of Iowa.

Particularly since Kutcher donates money to the Iowa’s athletic program, any involvement Kutcher would have with recruits might unduly influence their decision of which university to attend. Any undue influence during the recruiting process is an NCAA violation. Iowa admitted that its representatives allowed Kutcher, and his wife, Moore, to meet a couple of potential recruits, one of whom verbally committed to play for Iowa. This means that the NCAA might find that Iowa violated an NCAA regulation with possible consequences affecting Iowa’s recruiting.

Kathy’s blog from yesterday was about protecting superstars from bad press; but what about celebrity superstars, like Kutcher, who contribute to bad press and possible NCAA sanctions for colleges? The job of athletic compliance employees is a big one. Compliance employees are expected to educate coaches on how to avoid possible NCAA violations like the potential violation at Iowa. Of course ultimately it is up to the coaches as to whether or not they choose to comply with the NCAA regulations.

But compliance employees can do more than just educate coaches. They can communicate the regulations to athletic donors, like Kutcher, who may not be aware of how a simple conversation with a young high school kid could affect a university’s athletic program and its potential recruits. Compliance employees can also communicate with the athletes who already play for its university by helping steer recruits on campus clear of NCAA violations. Third, when potential high school recruits make official visits to campus, they, too, can be educated on how to avoid violating NCAA rules. Fewer NCAA infractions against a university athletic program may result from educating all the potential persons who can cause the school to be in violation of NCAA regulations. By keeping separate celebrities and potential recruits, some bad press and NCAA sanctions can be avoided.