North Gwinnett coach Bob Sphire confirmed that NCAA investigators will be at his school on Thursday to interview senior offensive lineman JaWuan James and his parents about possible recruiting violations committed by Tennessee and hinted that the inquiry may be focusing on the Vols’ use of social media in recruiting.
James, one of the top tackles in Georgia, committed to the Vols last month.
“[The NCAA has] requested a conference room,” Sphire said Wednesday morning. “They’ll be here tomorrow.”
The New York Times reported on Wednesday that the NCAA has launched a “wide-ranging” investigation into the Vols’ recruiting practices. Much of the investigation, Pete Thamel reports, focuses on the use of recruiting hostesses who may have traveled off campus to help lure top recruits back to Knoxville.
“I never saw that,” Sphire said of UT using hostesses. “The first time I heard about that was in the Times story. My understanding is it’s about social media and stuff like that. I couldn’t get on Facebook if you asked me to. Don’t want to. I have no idea what it’s all about.”
James has not returned phone messages seeking comment. Sphire said his player shouldn’t have to.
“People need to know, the NCAA has been in Florida and South Carolina about this thing,” Sphire said. “This is all about Tennessee. It’s not about the kids. They’re not investigating the kids; they’re investigating Tennessee.”
Sphire said he wasn’t aware of anything the Vols may have done against the rules while recruiting James, who chose Tennessee over Georgia. Then again, he asked, how would he know?
“There’s obscure rules about all kinds of stuff,” he said. “How would I know? How would a kid know? I can’t tell you if they’re calling at the right times or contacting them when they’re supposed to. You just have to trust that they’re doing things the right way.”
Tennessee has definitely been pushing the limits. The Vols already have been cited for six secondary rules violations under head coach Lane Kiffin.
Sphire, who coached in Kentucky for many years before coming to Georgia, said college football coaches are always testing the limits.
“Over the years, just about all the colleges are going to push it as far as possible and then the NCAA is going to put in more guidelines to rein them in,” he said. “Us as high school coaches, we don’t have time to fool with that. We just have to trust that they’re doing everything within the guidelines.”