On Thursday afternoon, LSA senior Christopher Breece got a voicemail message on his cell phone from an NCAA representative.
The message was short and direct – “literally 10 words long,” Breece said.
The representative called to tell Breece he couldn’t throw the block party he was planning because it would violate NCAA recruiting guidelines.
Breece conceived the party as being in honor of high school football star and Michigan prospect Terrelle Pryor, who visited the University this weekend on a recruiting trip. Pryor is rated the No. 1 high school football prospect by rivals.com, a website that evaluates high school athletes nationwide.
The NCAA forbids schools from holding parties for recruits to prevent the recruits from being exposed to illicit activity that could sway their decision.
Breece created the “Terrelle Pryor Greenwood Block Party” and the “Planning Stages of the Official Terrelle Pryor Greenwood Block Party” Facebook events with his housemate LSA senior Steve Frey early Tuesday morning. More than 1,500 people confirmed on Facebook that they would attend the first Facebook event.
Jennifer Kearns, an NCAA spokeswoman, said the party’s original description violated the organization’s policies because students are considered extensions of the University’s athletic department under NCAA bylaws. According to the bylaws, representatives of athletic interests include anyone who has participated in promoting a school’s athletic programs. Kearns said that includes student fans.
Breece said he tried calling the number back Thursday, but failed to get through. He then called the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis, Ind. and spoke with a representative who confirmed that hosting the block party would be a violation.
Breece was then referred to the University Athletic Department’s Office of Compliance, which monitors athletic department activities and reports violations to the appropriate governing body – either the Big Ten Conference or the NCAA.
Judy Van Horn, associate director of athletics, told Breece that the party, as advertised, should be canceled.
“We felt like it was a bad concept,” said Matt Stolberg, assistant athletic director for compliance.
The NCAA implemented tighter recruiting practices in 2005 after the University of Colorado football program was accused of engaging in illegal recruiting practices. These included cases in which Colorado football players had bought alcohol, drugs and hired strippers for recruits. Numerous female students at Colorado also filed lawsuits, accusing Colorado football players of rape while recruits were visiting the campus.
Stolberg said it was the first time in his memory that students at the University of Michigan have planned a party for a recruit.
Rather than scrapping the party altogether, Breece worked with the athletic department to change the party’s theme to be “in support of Michigan football” so it wasn’t specifically aimed at Pryor. Frey said he was willing to cooperate with the Athletic Department because he didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize Pryor’s eligibility should he decide to come to Michigan.
“The original intent was to show him how much support the Michigan community has for the football team and its players,” Frey said.
Breece and Frey tried several times to cancel the original Facebook events, but the site wouldn’t allow them to delete the listings. Breece created a new group called, “Greenwood Block Party Showing Support for Michigan Football” and posted messages on pages for the previous events, explaining that the events were cancelled and that the new event would take its place.
Breece also sent a Facebook message to members of the event explaining the NCAA policies and the changes to the party.
In the end, though, the block party wasn’t the blowout Breece and Frey envisioned. The bitter, 10 degree weather kept most party-goers home and confined the few who showed up to a couple of houses along the block.
Breece admitted that he failed to take the weather into account when he planned the party.