I hope this series helped you with the dead season withdrawal pains. I learned a lot in researching it, and wanted to finish it with some conclusions drawn from the case studies.1. There are very, very few coaches who can overcome significant talent deficits with superior scheming. I can think of none who have done so for extended periods of time. If a coach does develop a superior way to line up his players, he will be mimicked within a season or two. His assistants will be hired away. All experienced head coaches know that superior talent is the best edge to have.
2. The cheating programs are usually trying to overcome some inherent recruiting disadvantage. Not all scholarships have equal value. They know that without extra inducements, they cannot recruit evenly with schools that have better locations, more prestige, or a better history. The promised payments are a way to make their scholarship offer equal in worth to that of their rivals.
Understandably, no school's supporters want to admit that their scholarships are not as valued as others. That's why they typically justify cheating by claiming that their rivals are cheating, too.
3. Cheating works. It really, really works. Paying recruits and players leads to better players, which leads to more wins. There are several examples of average coaches achieving phenomenal results when the talent on their team is illegally spiked upwards. There are no examples of egregious cheaters being conference bottom-dwellers.
It is economically effective, too. In the '80s, the going rate for bought recruits was about $300 per month. That means that a team could get about 15 top players for the price of an assistant coach's salary. There are reports of superstar recruits getting six figures, but these are rare players.
4. For the NCAA to penalize a cheater, two things are required- a violation, and somebody to turn them in. There are ways to accomplish the former while not risking the latter- stay out of recruits' bidding wars, only recruit in territory you have established as "yours", and don't antagonize any player you have paid, even if he isn't panning out on the field.
5. The best protection for a clean program is to be in a conference that has mostly clean programs. The NCAA will not protect your recruiting from dirty rivals in any significant way. Ironically, the best protection for a dirty program is to be in a conference that has a lot of dirty programs- you're less likely to be reported.
6. The two most effective curbs on cheating have been the Death Penalty, and the regulation of booster involvement. The Death penalty was key to getting the most powerful alums to support the universities' administrations, rather than the football coaches. The alums realized that unrestrained coaches could do far more damage to the program than simply inept coaches. Limiting booster involvement was crucial because the hyper-competitive boosters were behind most of the worst violations.
7. The NCAA represents about 120 D-1A schools. In the past 50 years, the NCAA has instituted rule changes that have made it extremely difficult for 75% of its member institutions to compete nationally. In 1950, there was a laissez faire market for talent, and the single platoon rules in football meant that a school rally only needed 15 really good players to compete nationally. Now, the market for talent is heavily regulated, and two platoon rules means that a team needs 25 - 30 really good players to be competitive nationally. This situation is probably not what the NCAA intended, but it is what it has created.
Well, that's all I have. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed compiling. Thanks for all of the comments and kind (and even unkind) words.