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While I was gone last week, Yahoo! Sports broke an important story
on the brewing NCAA scandal that had lots of local angles.
WHAT IT MEANS:
- “Documents and bank records obtained in discovery during the federal investigation into the underbelly of college basketball detail in meticulous fashion the expenditures of prominent former NBA agent Andy Miller, his former associate Christian Dawkins and his agency, ASM Sports,” the story begins. “They include expense reports and balance sheets that list cash advances, as well as entertainment and travel expenses for high school and college prospects and their families.”
- “While three criminal cases tied to the investigation may take years to play out, the documents viewed by Yahoo revealed the extent of the potential NCAA ramifications from the case. The documents show an underground recruiting operation that could create NCAA rules issues–both current and retroactive–for at least 20 Division I basketball programs and more than 25 players.”
- “This could end up casting a pall over the NCAA tournament because of eligibility issues. There’s potential impermissible benefits and preferential treatment for players and families of players at Duke, North Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, Michigan State, USC, Alabama and a host of other schools. The documents link some of the sport’s biggest current stars–Michigan State’s Miles Bridges, Alabama’s Collin Sexton and Duke’s Wendell Carter–to specific potential extra benefits for either the athletes or their family members. The amounts tied to players in the case range from basic meals to tens of thousands of dollars.”
- Among the recipients: “Dennis Smith, who would go on to play at North Carolina State in 2016-17, received $43,500 according to the documents. Another document headed “Pina,” for ASM agent Stephen Pina, says Smith received a total of $73,500 in loans, and includes notes about “options to recoup the money” when Smith did not sign with ASM.”
- As McClatchy reported yesterday [N&O], Congress is now investigating the NCAA too: “The panel is now looking at the latest issue for the NCAA, an ongoing FBI investigation into high-level college basketball that led to 10 indictments against assistant coaches, shoe company executives and agents. A congressional investigation can involve witnesses testifying under oath and in public, as well as fact-finding that could produce legislation. Coaches were taking money from agents to influence players to retain those agents once the athletes joined the NBA. Shoe companies funneled money to players to get them to choose certain schools, according to the FBI.”
The ongoing scandal has already cost Rick Pitino his job at Louisville, and his
won’t be the last scalp it claims. But it’s difficult for me to see this whole thing as in any way surprising: when there’s big money floating around a sport, and the people actually generating those billions of dollars don’t see a cut of the action, of course
there’s an opportunity for corruption.
- Lebron James, who skipped the NCAA to go straight to the NBA in 2003, has the money quote: "The NCAA is corrupt, we know that. Sorry, it's going to make headlines, but it's corrupt." [Bleacher Report]
- Former president and basketball enthusiast Barack Obama has a solution [Bleacher Report]: “Former President Barack Obama believes the NBA could help out the NCAA by creating a junior league that can serve as a farm system in professional basketball. He addressed the NCAA's structure at a sports-policy conference at MIT last week. ‘It's just not a sustainable way of doing business,’ Obama said, via Reason.com's Robby Soave. ‘Then when everybody acts shocked that some kid from extraordinarily poor circumstances who's got 5, 10, 15 million dollars waiting for him is going to be circled by everybody in a context in which people are making billions of dollars, it's not good.’”
- Bottom line: if you want college athletes—who, again, are generating millions of dollars for their schools—to remain amateurs for the sake of, well, purity, then you have to give young athletes who can and want to make bank off their talents an opportunity to do so, either via a junior league in lieu of college hoops or allowing them to skip college and go right to the NBA, which the league prohibited in 2006. Or schools could just pay their athletes, which seems like the most straightforward solution to me. Either way, Obama is right that the current structure is unsustainable—and will necessarily continue to breed corruption.