We always hear about the shadow world of recruiting in college athletics. Money exchanging hands, gifts handed out, perks readily available for those willing to take them. Whenever these practices come to light, it's usually in the form of someone at a school, a high-profile booster, or a coach, somehow circumventing the rules. But in one of the most fascinating articles you will read about college athletics, Steven Godfrey of SB Nation shines the light on a whole other world of buying recruits, run by anonymous "bag men" who try to not associate themselves with the schools they are boosting for, but run an independent pay-for-play operation.
Godfrey was given access to "bag men" who spoke about their shadow world as long as they remained anonymous. The story covers a wide range of practices and rules that the bag men live by. There are the 10 commandments of the bag men that include items like: There is never a bank account. There is only cash.
One bag men outlines how the money is spent.
The actual money is never collected in a single area, but a collective of shadow boosters keeps an unwritten counter on how much each of them can contribute in cash at any given moment for three major purposes:
1. Large single sums to be paid out in order to convince a recruit to sign with the school.
2. Maintenance payments to current players, delivered in an ongoing basis.
3. Cash owed by an out-of-area shadow booster to a bag man living in the college town. Sometimes a player whose sponsor lives back at home needs money immediately, so a local bag man not assigned to that player will pay the player, with a marker going to his booster back home.
The money doesn't always go to the player. Sometimes they want it for family. One recruit needed his family's tractor repaired for the farm. Another one:
"I've paid to put a single mother through rehab. It was the recruit's older sister. He's playing ball and mama's raising two grandchildren, his sister's kids. Mama's tired and doesn't want to raise another set of kids. So we make the calls and arrange for the daughter to go to rehab, then set her up with a job when she's done. Fast track her to a job at a private business, nothing suspicious. Now mama can enjoy her son playing and the daughter is back on her feet. And when it came time to sign, we made sure she saw something [cash], but I promise you that meant more than just money."
Do yourself a favor, go read this article right now. Your eyes will be opened to whole new world of college recruiting. Congrats to author Steven Godfrey and the SB Nation team (Art: Dylan Lathrop | Editor: Jason Kirk | Producer: Matt Watson) for an astounding article.