It got all but buried last week during the Miami bombshell, but UCF is also in quite a bit of hot water. The program received a letter of inquiry last week aimed at possible recruiting violations in football and men’s basketball.
Ordinarily issues of compliance at Central Florida wouldn’t get a mention here, but the central figure in this case was was a name that came up earlier this year in a recruiting story that involved Georgia’s basketball program. According to ESPN, “Allegations are believed to center on Ken Caldwell, a 42-year-old Chicago native and former AAU basketball coach who has been tied to Central Florida’s recruitment of several basketball players and at least one football player.”
You might not remember Caldwell’s name, but you Kevin Ware might ring a bell. Ware is a promising guard from Georgia, rated among the top 100 prospects in the nation for the incoming class. Ware originally committed to Tennessee, but he re-opened recruiting once Bruce Pearl left the Volunteer program. After he was granted his release, Ware immediately listed four programs that would get consideration: “Louisville, UCLA, Georgia and Central Florida.” Three of those schools made sense: UCLA and Louisville are traditional basketball powers. Georgia was the up-and-coming hometown school coming off an NCAA Tournament bid. But UCF? The story took an even bigger twist when Ware committed to the Knights in one of the bigger recruiting coups in program history. Things became much more clear when Caldwell’s role was uncovered.
Media outlets reported Caldwell’s connection to Ware back in May, but UCF officials stated that they had not been contacted by the NCAA. That has now changed. The New York Times explains Caldwell’s alleged role in steering Ware to UCF:
Central Florida, it turns out, had an ally in its recruitment of Ware: Kenneth Caldwell, a Chicago man with a substantial criminal record and apparent ties to a prominent sports agency. Ware said Caldwell called him repeatedly to talk up Central Florida, traveled to Atlanta to meet with his family and even arranged joint phone conversations with the university’s basketball coach, Donnie Jones, and his staff — contact prohibited by the N.C.A.A.
Once Ware became aware of Caldwell’s shady background, he backed out of his commitment and opened things up once again. In the end Ware settled on Louisville over his other finalists, including Georgia. Another top UCF prospect allegedly with ties to Caldwell, QB Damarcus Smith, hasn’t enrolled yet due to academic issues.