There have been hundreds of articles already on the FBI probe into possible (and probable) bribing of high school athletes by several schools in conjunction with the shoe company Adidas.
Many sportswriters have called it a very bad day for college athletics and the NCAA, but as somebody who loves college sports, particularly basketball and football, I think yesterday was a great day, especially for the future of the sports.
Let’s first take a look at what went down yesterday and then I will tell you why this is a great thing for college sports.
Following a three-year long probe/sting by the FBI looking into the possible exchange of money between coaches/Adidas/high school athletes and their family members, it has effectively been confirmed what most of us already know—-there is rampant cheating that goes on at the highest levels of college athletics and the NCAA.
While there were four assistant coaches named initially in the statement released by the FBI yesterday (none of whom impact Wake Forest...yet anyway), the majority of the press so far has been on Louisville.
According to initial documents released by the FBI, there was an exchange of $100,000 from a high level executive at Adidas and family member(s) of Brian Bowen, who days after the exchange committed to Louisville, which was described as a “shock” to many recruiting analysts.
Rick Pitino issued a statement last night stating that he knew nothing about this, and basically showed that he is dumber than Jon Snow. This wouldn’t be AS big of a deal if Louisville had not been put on probation by the NCAA just a month before the conversation due to the prostitution scandals that rocked the school earlier this year.
I don’t really care to make an assessment on whether or not Rick Pitino and Louisville are innocent or guilty because it is going to play itself out, but at this point Rick Pitino is either the dirtiest coach in America or the dumbest coach in America.
Coaches go to extreme lengths to micromanage literally everything about their program so they can control it and have total oversight, and Pitino wants us to believe that he knew nothing about an exchange of $100K to a family member of a 5-star basketball player who then turns around and commits to Louisville?
I am familiar with plausible deniability, but this far exceeds the threshold for believability for anybody who can objectively look at this situation. If Pitino truly had no idea about the strippers, recruiting parties, or the $100K exchange then Louisville needs to be slap with the coveted “Lack of Institutional Control”, because it is obvious after 2017 that nobody there has a damn idea what’s going on, or who is looking after the program.
I assume Pitino will meet his demise today, and it is likely Athletic Director Tom Jurich will do the same, as there is simply no way Louisville can weather another storm like this without taking care of these two immediately.
At this point in time a lot of these coaches needs to stop worrying about getting fired, but preparing to face possible federal charges with regards to aiding and abetting fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud across state lines.
That is what the FBI is interested in, and unlike the NCAA, they have subpoena power, they have phone calls, they have e-mail message trails, and they have the information needed to bring these charges against the four assistant coaches they named, and likely tens, if not hundreds more.
Now you probably read this and are wondering why in the world I think this is a good thing for college basketball and college football? I believe that this will be the tip of the iceberg that leads to unveiling of the most corrupt recruiters and schools in the NCAA.
We all know, and have known for a long time that recruiting for basketball and football is a dirty game. This doesn’t exclude Wake Forest, because I believe that every high level program in America (Power 5 conference team and likely beyond that) has “cheating” of some form.
Now do I think that all schools cheat to the extent of paying family members of a high-level recruit 6 figures? Absolutely not, but there are minor violations and skirting of the rules at every school, the NCAA simply does not have the manpower or the oversight to regulate it.
What I hope comes of this case is a complete overhaul of the NCAA and the way amateurism and the term “student-athlete” are viewed. I don’t claim to be intelligent enough to put together a model that allows players to be paid without getting in to issues of how to effectively monitor it, but right now it is clear that exchanges of money are already occurring and the NCAA has no idea how to stop them either.
I don’t necessarily want to get into a “college athletes should be paid”, because that opens an entire bag of worms with regards to how to pay JUST basketball and football players as opposed to every student-athlete under the NCAA moniker, which gets pretty tough.
What I do know is that right now the NCAA model is broken beyond repair. They have rules that they can’t implement, schools that they refuse to punish, and a system that focuses on maximizing profits and lining pockets for coaches, schools, and executives, all while exploiting the “student-athlete” and robbing them of their right to make money on their own name, skillset, and likeness.
That’s not right, and whether or not you agree with the idea of paying players, I think we can all agree that the current system unnecessarily punishes “student-athletes” and their ability to earn.
While there will be a lot of scrutiny, firings, and possibly arrests of the coaches, executives, and AD members involved in this, a thorough cleaning of the worst of the worst in college basketball must be done to help get the product back to the “pure” form of athletics that we all want to see.
There will almost certainly be dark days ahead for the NCAA and how people view it, but it is absolutely necessary for it to get back to where it used to be.
That’s why we watch the NCAA vs. the NFL or NBA. We have a tie to a school that you can’t get anywhere else. Everybody believes that their school is the clean one, while “insert rival school down the road here” is the dirty one, but it’s time to admit once and for all that every school has been complicit in the culmination of what is currently going down.
Until the NCAA is overhauled as a governing body, recruiting is reformed, and the people in charge get back to caring what is really important—-the development of student-athletes as people who can contribute to society once they “go pro in something else”—-instead of solely looking at the bottom line, then there will continue to be these sorts of problems.
So yes, yesterday was a good day because it is the beginning of the end for the current NCAA model as we know it. My hope is that from here a thorough examination of how we got to where we are, and how to fix it will be developed.
Unless that is done, we will see more of these types of recruiting scandals pop up and continue to ruin the sports that we all know and love.