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Duke Recruiting: How Duke Pulled Bagley’s Certification Off

It wasn’t an accident and it didn't start when Bagley committed either

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2017 CIF Southern Section Boys Open Division Championship - Semifinals
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 24: Marvin Bagley III #35 of Sierra Canyon School shoots a free throw during the game against Bishop Montgomery High School at the Galen Center on February 24, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images

We’ve been expecting a certain backlash after the NCAA declared Marvin Bagley III eligible but haven’t seen it yet other than this anonymous comment from an ACC coach: "Incredible but not at all surprising."

Well it’s not to us because it involved a semi-secret weapon Duke has that not many programs can match: a remarkable level of organization and communication. It comes primarily from Coach K but from top to bottom, Duke is intensely organized which is why, as we’ve pointed out, Duke usually does so well early in the season: it’s simply done more with the time it has.

Consider the statement Coach K made after the NCAA cleared Bagley:

“From the outset of this process, we were optimistic that it would end with the NCAA Eligibility Center certifying Marvin to compete for Duke University in 2017-18. We are thrilled for Marvin and the Bagley family. Their organization and efficiency were key to the successful conclusion of the certification process, as were the efforts of our Duke Athletics administration.”

So to break that down: at some point a theoretical discussion about Bagley reclassifying took place. Duke did its homework quickly, efficiently and thoroughly and concluded it could happen. Indeed, there was optimism. This wasn’t a Hail Mary thing, far from it.

In order for it to happen, especially quickly, the Bagley family had to provide all the documentation and records the NCAA requests. That explains Krzyzewski’s praise for their “organization and efficiency.” Duke helped them through the process, got them all the information they needed and impressed upon them a certain urgency. And given how late it started, urgency was needed.

We read something recently (unfortunately we can’t find the link again) which explained why certification sometimes takes so long: it’s because, the interviewee explained, families do not give the NCAA the requested records in a timely manner. It might be canceled checks, credit card statements, school or rental records - whatever the NCAA may request, if it doesn’t get it, the case doesn’t move. That, he said, usually explains why some cases drag on indefinitely.

Duke and the Bagleys got their ducks in a row and answered all of the NCAA’s questions. That, more than what the anonymous coach suggested above, explains how they pulled this off. How often do you hear coaches praise parents for “organization and efficiency?”

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