Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and head coach Jason Garrett attended Duke’s game against North Carolina Saturday night in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Romo and Garrett both wore Duke shirts, and sat behind the scorer’s table, near the Duke bench. Romo rooted enthusiastically for the Blue Devils throughout the game.
Garrett and Romo also visited with the Duke players the day before the game, playing Quinn Cook and ESPN’s Jay Williams in a game of PIG.
There were also several high-profile Duke recruits attending the game. Like most prospective Duke players, they sat behind the scorer’s table, near the Duke bench, very close to Romo and Garrett.
After the game, there were charges from UNC fans on various Tar Heel message boards claiming that it was an NCAA violation to have Romo help pitch Duke to recruits. It appears that, unless there were any clandestine meetings we don’t know about, nothing Duke and Romo did was against NCAA regulations.
The NCAA rule prohibits prohibit recruits from having any contact with individuals considered to represent a university’s athletic interests. In other words: Boosters.
A person is considered a booster if they meet any of the following criteria:
*Participate in or have been a member of any booster or alumni groups
*Make or have made a donation to any of the athletic programs
*Provide or have helped to arrange employment for student-athletes
*Have been involved in promoting the school’s athletics in any way
*Are the parent or legal guardian of an enrolled student-athlete
*Participated as a varsity athlete at the school
Neither Romo nor Garrett played sports at Duke. As far as anyone knows, they’re not members of the Iron Dukes or any other booster club, nor have they donated or provided jobs for any athletes.
About the only criteria that could be used to argue that Romo and Garnett were boosters is that by wearing Duke shirts on national television, they “promoted” Duke athletics.
Even if they were considered boosters by that rule, there’s no evidence that Romo and Garrett met with any of the recruits, and any contact at the game would fall under “unavoidable incidental contact”. If boosters and recruits do bump into each other, for instance, because they were seated near each other at a game, they’re allowed to exchange greetings, but nothing else.
In 2010, Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore created a recruiting violation at the University of Iowa. There were a few differences between that case and Romo/Garrett, however. Kutcher attended the University of Iowa before breaking into acting, making him more likely to fit the booster definition by either donating money or joining an alumni group. The school also allowed Kutcher and Moore to have a face-to-face meeting with the recruits.