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First Downs and Second Guesses

Blog #150- October 1, 2017

The big news this week in the sports world was the bombshell announcement about the college basketball bribery and corruption scandal.  How big was it?  Well, it cost Louisville head men's basketball coach Rick Pitino his job, and Louisville administrators decided to toss their athletic director as well.  It also got the attention of every NCAA Division I men's basketball program and the top administrators at the school.

The indictment from the FBI alleges that several NCAA basketball teams helped to funnel money from sneaker companies and professionals like financial advisors to recruits and their families.  Some assistant coaches are accused of taking bribes from agents to steer players to them when they turn pro.  The FBI stated that the investigation is on-going.

Pitino's name is not mentioned in the indictment.  However, Louisville officials admitted that the school is part of the investigation.  Athletic Director Tom Jurich was fired when he refused to fire Pitino.  

I think Louisville just got tired of what was happening with their men's basketball program under Pitino.  The program was rocked by a 2016 book written by the head of a prostitution ring that said she was approached by Pitino's director of operations to provide sex to Louisville recruits and players.  Pitino said he knew nothing about the situation at that time, but an NCAA investigation said in their report that Pitino was negligent in his administration of the program, and the program was issued sanctions for the 2017 season, including Pitino sitting out the first six games of the season.  The director of operations was fired, and the program was ordered to rescind victories for using ineligible players back to the 2013 season.  If  the sanctions are upheld after appeal, Louisville would have to forfeit their 2013 national championship trophy in addition to the victories.

Assistant coaches at Arizona, Auburn, Oklahoma State, and USC were also arrested amid the investigation.  They were accused of accepting hefty bribes to steer players to specific sports agents.  Another person indicted was the head of world basketball marketing for adidas.  He was accused of using adidas money to finance the payments to recruits and their families.

With the arrival of this scandal, the big question being raised again is whether this illegal activity would vanish if schools paid their athletes?  That's tough to answer.  I would surmise that some activity would diminish, but not all of it.  Why?  Because people would get greedy and want more than what the school would provide.

The most shameful part of this scandal is the participation by assistant coaches in this kind of activity.  All four assistant coaches named in the indictment are from prominent basketball programs.  They're getting paid good money.  So why get involved in a bribery scandal?  Again, their thinking must be that if they can influence a player to sign with a certain agent or marketing company, they deserve a piece of the pot.  Bad thinking.

There will certainly be more announcements before this investigation concludes.  More head coaches and schools not currently named will be revealed.  There has got to be a lot of sweating going on under the collar of guilty coaches not yet named.  There also has to be a lot of sweating going on with school administrators whose programs have been under scrutiny or been convicted in the past of recruiting violations.

The ball has not yet dropped on the 2017 college basketball season.  But the death knell for some coaches and programs may be just around the corner.  So sad to see a great sport poisoned by the actions of a few greedy fools.

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