When the news broke early Tuesday morning that the Justice Department was charging assistant coaches from four big name college basketball programs, most were shocked not because of the allegations of bribery and fraud but because it was a federal indictment.But before I even get into the implications these charges will have on college basketball, let’s discuss what the Department of Justice is claiming happened.
Four Assistant Coaches Chuck Person of Auburn, Lamont Evans of Oklahoma State, Emanuel Richardson of Arizona, and Tony Bland of USC along with Adidas Director of Sports Marketing Jim Gatto, as well as five other not named where arrested because of a system of bribery and fraud involving the sports apparel company and financial advisors. Basically the DOJ alleges that since 2015 there have been multiple occasions where bribes were given to coaches and even directly to the athlete in order to secure that player would use their services when they turned pro. The DOJ also alleges that money was given to the family of a high school player in an effort to get the player to Louisville, which just so happens to be an Adidas-sponsored program.
Now to most who have covered college basketball for a long time would tell you that this kind of thing isn’t uncommon in college basketball. In fact, it’s the cost of doing business in the cut throat world of college sports. While yes, there are in fact probably clean programs that do things the ethical way, it’s probably a small list. And really it’s only because there is so much money involved, especially in college basketball. Universities with successful basketball programs make their respective schools large sums of money and in order to continue to do that, they need to have the best players. And since there is a small pool of highly talented players and a lot of schools that want them to come play for a year before going on to the NBA, which is the ultimate goal for the more talented high school players. So that desire to land the best of the best means that most likely there is money changing hands or favors being used in order to get the athlete.
In fact college basketball has a tainted history of doing questionable things to win like three University of Kentucky players receiving money to shave points during a tournament in the 50s, University of Michigan had to forfeit wins during the “Fab Five” era because players got money and cars from a booster, OJ Mayo received cash and gifts during his time playing for USC in 2007 and 2008, and that time that University of California-Berkley head coach Todd Bozeman paid for a player’s parents to come watch him play to just name a few.
So what does this all mean for college basketball? Well as the FBI said during the press conference today they now have the playbook and thus know exactly what is going on so it might just be a matter of time before more charges are handed out. Then there’s also the NCAA punishments that are sure to come, Louisville could be facing a possible death penalty if there is any connections between the university and the wide-range system, given the team’s history with NCAA violations. The NCAA is most likely happy that most of the leg work for them is done because the DOJ is not pressing charges without having enough evidence to do so. Hopefully the NCAA won’t take a million years in determining the appropriate punishments with the only deterrent to shift action is if more arrests are coming.
This scandal might just be the catalyst in a system that is in desperate need of an upheaval because the athletes and more over the students of these universities deserve more.