Today’s news that rocked the college basketball world isn’t surprising to anyone who’s paid attention to the sport for a long period of time. Rumors and innuendos of players getting money under the table have gone on for years.
Assistant coaches from Arizona, USC, Oklahoma St, and Auburn were charged along with a handler, financial advisor, an agent and three employees of Adidas. The basketball programs at Louisville and Miami (Fl) were also possibly indicated in pay-to-pay schemes.
Outside of the obvious initial shock is the fact that four of the six schools have had recent run-ins with the NCAA. Painting a sad picture that winning, at all costs, is the name of the game in big-time college athletics.
Now I’m not here to be the morality police. There’s millions of dollars at stake for winning programs. Basketball coaches are hired to win basketball games. If they don’t, they get fired. Now we have an idea of the lengths some are willing to go to protect their jobs.
Auburn is Bruce Pearl’s first head coaching job after being given a show-cause penalty for lying to NCAA investigators when he was the head coach at Tennessee. To be fair, there has been no indication by the FBI or anyone else that Pearl was involved in the alleged improprieties. His assistant coach, Chuck Person, was very much involved in a scheme to funnel money to players for the purpose of getting those players to particular financial advisors and agents. The fact that his staff didn’t know that people might be watching is hard to believe though.
USC is a place that has famously been embroiled in scandal in the past 15 years in both football and basketball. The basketball program famously came under fire after former Trojan, O.J. Mayo took money from an agent through a runner. It will now certainly be in crosshairs of the NCAA once again as assistant coach Tony Bland allegedly tried to steer players to former agent, Christian Dawkins and financial advisor, Munish Sood. It was also alleged that he arranged payments for players and their families.
The University of Miami’s basketball program was a part of a broader scandal involving the athletic department and booster, Nevin Shapiro. That investigation resulted in the basketball program losing scholarships. While no one was charged from the program in this investigation, it is possible that the school’s recruitment of the highly-touted Nassir Little was implicated. Through a lawyer, current Hurricanes’ head coach Jim Larranaga has already denied involvement.
Then there’s Louisville. Like Miami, no one from Louisville’s staff was explicitly mentioned in the indictment. However, it’s clear that the report alleges that several members of the staff were involved in arrange payments for potential recruits to attend Louisville. One player includes current five-star freshman Brian Bowen, who the FBI alleges was paid $100,000. Rick Pitino famously said of Bowen and his family:
“But they had to come in unofficially, pay for their hotels, pay for their meals. So we spent zero dollars recruiting a five-star athlete who I loved when I saw him play. In my 40-some-odd years of coaching, this is the luckiest I’ve been.”
This is the same Louisville that’s on probation right now for a scandal involving paying strippers to have sex with recruits.
Six schools implicated. Four with recent run-ins with NCAA investigators. At what point does winning trump cheating. One question administrators and the NCAA is going to ask moving forward is did the head coaches at these schools set an expectation of running a clean program or were their assistants empowered to take risks.
There probably will be several more shoes to drop with coaches and programs across the country. Some may be in similar situations as the schools mentioned above. It’s now time for everyone involved in intercollegiate athletics to re-evaluate the importance of winning.