Corruption In The NCAA

Corruption In The NCAA

RAJAN NANAVATI


The National Collegiate Athletic Association will have you believe that collegiate athletics is a wholesome endeavor, with college students maintaining their amateur athletic status, and participating in their respective sports because they're getting a discounted (if not free) education in exchange, and because they simply love the sport itself.

However, we all know this couldn't be further from the truth. As much as we've been told the idea that monetary influence has no place in collegiate athletics, the not-so-secret truth is that college sports has become a multi-billion dollar business, and as you'd expect from any organization with capitalistic intentions, the entities involved will often stop at nothing in order to obtain an advantage over their competitors. After all, the athletes themselves might not be profiting from their efforts in their sports, but there are way too many individuals with vested monetary interest in the performance of a particular player or a particular school. And that's where things can get highly questionable, and even more unethical.

In particular, the specter of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) ongoing investigation into potential "pay to play" violations in college basketball looms over the sport, especially in the days leading up to the NCAA tournament. Back in September of 2017, the FBI charged 10 different people with crimes that ranged from mass corruption and bribery to wire fraud; all 10 people were linked by the FBI, in some way, to the top college basketball programs in the country. This investigation has already cost Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino his job at the University of Louisville, and some of the top programs in college basketball -- including the University of Arizona, University of Virginia, and Michigan State University -- find themselves publicly linked to this mess.

Five different assistant coaches, including Chuck Persons at Auburn, Emmanuel Richardson at Arizona, Tony Bland at USC, Jordan Fair at Louisville and Lamont Evans at Oklahoma State, have all been terminated by their respective (former) employers, because of potential ties to illegally influencing recruits to come and play for their respective college basketball programs. These issues involve so much more than players being handed money, like we saw from the "Pony Express" scandal back at SMU in the 1980's, or the Nevin Shapiro scandal at the University of Miami in the 1990's and early 2000's. Instead, what we're seeing is individuals at the top college basketball schools using their own intermediaries (like assistant coaches) to use money to influence the intermediaries of the top prospects. This could be as simple as taking care of unpaid bills for a recruit's parent; preferential treatment, gifts, or payouts to the high school coach of a recruit; or even giving either of these intermediaries a job at the school itself, in hopes of bringing the player to the school. 

As many others have stated: it's absolutely ridiculous to put the onus on college basketball recruits, many of whom are not even legally classified as adults when they arrive to college, to look the other way on the gobs of money that are often being exchanged under the table.

Thus, the fallout from these scandals, especially as more information becomes available, bears watching. This could be the death knell for the current "one-and-done" rule in college basketball. It will only amplify the discussion around whether it's finally time to pay college basketball players, or whether they should at least be able to earn some money off their likeness.

But one thing remains increasingly clear: these athletes might be classified as amateurs, but there are a whole lot of individuals who are making a professional income off their amateur status, legally or illegally.

 

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