I support the majority of NCAA initiatives, both straightforward and controversial. For the most part, we’re talking about a rock-solid organization, comprised of good people adopting forward-thinking policies.
However, this Marcus Lattimore ruling is a tough one to digest.
Lattimore organizes popular football camps during the summer and headlines a self-titled charitable outreach, The Marcus Lattimore Foundation. So, how would these positive contributions to society make him a bad fit for gainful employment at South Carolina?
According to The State, the NCAA has quickly thwarted new Gameocks head coach Will Muschamp’s plan to hire Lattimore — a star tailback with South Carolina from 2010-12 — as a school ambassador, citing the vague rationale that Lattimore’s official presence would lead to an “unfair recruiting advantage’ for the program.
**What does that even mean? Is Lattimore ‘too famous’ to garner a regular support-staff role at the college level?
**The NCAA knows Lattimore never played a single NFL down, due to injury, right?
**And is South Carolina vying to become the first school in NCAA history to hire a prominent sports alum in a non-teaching/non-coaching role?
Football legend Archie Griffin, the only college player in history to claim multiple Heisman trophies (Ohio State in 1974-75), sits as the president and CEO of the Ohio State University Alumni Association. He’s also the primary inspiration behind the Archie Griffin Scholarship Fund, which “creates scholarship opportunities for high school Olympic Sports athletes to attend The Ohio State University.”
With respect to Griffin, how does his commendably layered role with OSU athletics, academics and business differ from the prospective arrangement between Lattimore and South Carolina? If anything, Lattimore’s employment duties would have been more constrictive.
For 40-plus years, the “Griffin” name has been synonymous with Ohio State football. In turn, wouldn’t that create an “unfair recruiting advantage” for the Buckeyes, Griffin and prospective student-athletes, when competing with other Big Ten schools for Midwest-based recruits?
Of course, Lattimore (41 TDs at South Carolina) still has the freedom to be an unofficial ambassador for South Carolina until his dying day.
Which begs the question: How would prospective SEC recruits, when talking to Lattimore in neutral areas, away from college campuses, even know the former Gamecock’s official status with the school? Assuming Lattimore is allowed to share endless Steve Spurrier stories and/or wear unlimited South Carolina golf shirts, how would his unofficial recruiting pitch be any less effective, in the eyes of a 17-year-old kid?
Another quirky thing about this story: South Carolina apparently wanted to delay the Lattimore hiring until his college graduation ceremony next month.
In earnest, Gamecocks officials might have been trying to appease the NCAA, ensuring the 24-year-old Lattimore would do nothing crazy before graduation/subsequent first day on the job — like launch another charitable foundation or pass on additional life skills to athletically gifted youths at summer camp.
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports.