After going through the index server event log I found this “warning”:
Event ID 2436The start address
After rebuilding search (which did not help) and analyzing the SharePoint error log, I stumbled across the following:
“MS Search Administration 8ije Verbose Search application '6a6d1b28-3a6a-416c-884c-1d8d967f9966': Skipping people start address configuration b/c start address 'sps3://[server_name]:1212' was automatically added to the default content source once.”
There was a port number :1212/ (which seems absolutely correct, considering that my Sites are on this port number).
The solution to the problem was to remove the port number and keet the slash, I have seen this Protocol handler get confused with it the past. Once that was removed and the crawl was initiated, it was grabbing the people profiles.
Seems like a simple resolution, but it cost me my weekend J.