What’s Trent Frazier’s beef with the NCAA? The answer is “Portillo’s.”
On August 19, 2016, the University of Illinois men’s basketball program committed an NCAA recruiting violation when Dustin Ford, Jamall Walker and Paris Parham drove Frazier and his parents from O’Hare Airport to Portillo’s Hot Dogs, and bought them some dinner.
The Fraziers’ flight from Florida had been delayed, significantly. The three Illini coaches hopped into a car and drove from Champaign to O’Hare, knowing the Fraziers would miss the last connecting flight to Willard Airport, and not wanting them to be stranded.
The coaches met the Fraziers and Trent’s high school coach Matt Colin at baggage claim, just as everyone learned the bags would be delayed too, by about 45 minutes. Colin and the Fraziers hadn’t eaten in seven hours.
So everyone got in the car and drove the 7.6 miles to the corner of Dempster & Western, in Niles (not 6.6 miles to the Portillo’s at Busse & Greenleaf in Elk Grove Village, mind you).
They were in the restaurant for 15 to 20 minutes (significant). Then they went back to the airport, collected their bags, and drove to Champaign.
It was about 1:30 a.m. when the Frazier entourage finally checked-in at the i-Hotel.
Transportation, lodging and meals are all legit expenses for Official Visit purposes. So why was this $80.29 impermissible? Because the NCAA is the second-dumbest organization in the world.
Meals are okay. Transportation is okay. But meals during transportation? That invokes a particular sub-chapter. It’s okay, but only if the food is carry-out.
IF you sit down while you’re eating, if you’re not trying to swallow that delicious dipped, hot & sweet gooey mess while in motion, the NCAA has sees red.
The other “problem” with this series of events, judged using the demented logic of the NCAA, is how it affected the imaginary clock which times an Official Visit. That clock can’t or does start to pretend-tick based on particular triggering events, like proximity to campus.
I’d explain the rule further, but nobody really understands it. You wouldn’t understand it. I don’t.
Because the flight was delayed, the Fraziers were expected to fend for themselves in an unfamiliar city <–or–> because they arrived on campus so late in the day, they should have paid for their hotel. There’s a magical hour at which the feisty, opinionated little clock prefers to wait ’til morning to begin pretend-ticking.
That’s the NCAA’s logic.
On the other hand, the NCAA doesn’t especially care whether this impermissible benefit is granted or not. If it did, there would be penalties. Instead, a letter of admonishment went into John Groce’s file (perhaps because he was the only staff member not present?) and the three assistant coaches all got some extra training. (What was that training? We don’t know. Let’s assume it took fewer than 90 seconds to convey.)
Trent Frazier’s eligibility was not affected. His parents were not forced to repay the university for the strawberry shortcake, small fries or beeves.*
In the end, some work was generated for administrators and administrative assistants, some of whom will still have jobs if Bruce Rauner and Mike Madigan ever agree to pass a budget.
*In reading the receipt, you’ll be surprised to find that no one ordered a combo.