Advantage or disadvantage?
At one point during the UNC scrimmage with Democract Senator Barack Obama, Roy Williams was hear saying:
“You’ve left the next president of the United States wide open…”
This rather positive statement led to a clarification from UNC stating that Roy was not endorsing Obama by referring to him as the next president nor was Roy endorsing anyone.
This leads to an interesting question. Was the Obama visit a positive or negative for UNC, especially as it pertains to recruiting? Regardless of your politics, you have to acknowledge that it was a positive for the players to meet someone running for President. However, given the divisive nature of politics coupled with the strong feelings people have about their political allegiances you have to wonder if there was any impact at all in terms of recruiting?
It was suggested by commenters on other blogs that UNC and Roy could use this as part of the recruiting pitch and therefore the NCAA should have been more interested in what happened since it clearly affords UNC an advantage. I tend to think of recruiting in simpler terms and believe there are four or five areas that really matter to a recruit, whether Obama or Hilary Clinton or John McCain visited with the team would not be on the list. In fact I would argue you stand more of a chance of alienating a player’s parents with something like this than you do attracting anyone. This probably explains the clarification from UNC on Wednesday.
Roy Williams, in running the UNC basketball program, has a vested interest in being as neutral as possible in areas of politics. Dean Smith took a different track on this and showed more of his political stripes while on the job at UNC but Roy strikes me as someone less inclined to be active in this arena. His thinking on the topic might be similar to that of Michael Jordan who, when asked to advocate for Harvey Gantt in his bid to win the US senate seat in NC from Jesse Helms, replied, “Republicans buy sneakers too.” It also might be that Roy just does not care about politics. However, he obviously thought it was important to make sure no one took what he said as an endorsement, just to avoid any misunderstandings.
In the end I doubt it matters. Players and their parents care about a lot of things: playing time, role models, winning, prep for the NBA, etc. I am sure there are a few out there who would not be as willing to Roy because he was hanging out with Obama. However, it is not like Roy is suffering for recruits so I am pretty sure it does not matter.