A specter hanging over this college basketball season is the bad publicity - and life-changing accusations - that have come from the FBI’s probe of money for influence in college basketball.
For those who missed the fireworks: in a dramatic flourish, the US Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York connected the dots with wire taps and informants, mapping the exact amount going to certain “unnamed” players and “unnamed coaches” and “unnamed” schools from the adidas shoe company.
“Unnamed” is in quote because, given the descriptions of the people and institutions involved are easy to unmask.
There is hope that this scandal helps “clean up” college basketball in some manner. Most think of that as “keep players and coaches from receiving under the table payments,” while some think about perhaps not holding top-ten players in college when they clearly have high earning value in a more free market.
In the Big Ten, some coaches were surprised, like Mark Turgeon of Maryland:
“We’re doing everything the same,” Turgeon said. “I was a little shocked the FBI was involved. It’s a black eye [on the sport]. It’s tough. I do think the majority of us do it the right way. But we’re not doing anything different on our end. We don’t talk to the players because there’s nothing for us to talk to the players about.
Others were... not. Fran McCaffery from Iowa:
“The fact that people got caught for what they’ve always been doing, to me, is a good thing,” McCaffery said. “Everyone says, ‘It’s awful.’ It’s always been like this. … There’s always been people cheating. There are different entities. Now those different entities have gotten caught recently.”
Asked if this scandal could change the way coaches run their programs, McCaffery said, “In the past, people [who were caught cheating] lost their jobs. Now if they’re looking at jail time, they’ll change.”
Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski, in the Big East, thought that this was an opportunity for the game as well.
"The vast majority, the overwhelming majority, are doing things the right way," he said. "In any multibillion-dollar business, there are going to be a few bad actors. There's a chance for growth and improvement."
The players, though, are not surprised. From the link above:
"When [Bruce Bowen] committed there (in June), that's exactly what I heard he got," [Marcus] Foster said.
"I never encountered anything where I was offered money to go to a school," he said. "It's the top-tier guys. We always talk about that … 'This guy got this much or that much.'
Further fallout? Or no?
There was a salacious headline listing the schools that had begun an internal review of their programs in response the the FBI investigation - with St. John’s on that list. The salacious part comes in the phrasing - asking if programs were doing review because the investigation prompted them to.
“Prompted” could mean an Athletic Direction dry heaving into his or her trash can... or it could mean “why don’t we ask our people what’s going on down there to cover our exposure?”
The Kansas City star puts some possible cold water on that idea that we know the programs rolling in the dirt...
The NCAA has directed all Division I programs to examine their men’s basketball programs for potential rules violations following an FBI probe of the sport, and Kansas — for one — says it has followed through on the request.
KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger released a statement Monday afternoon, saying the NCAA Board of Directors announced the reviews last week.
“In light of recent announcements related to college basketball, Kansas Athletics discussed topics like recruiting, extra benefits and agents,” Zenger said. “We have complete confidence that our men’s basketball staff not only understands NCAA rules but also follows them.”
So far, with no new names to come, perhaps this scandal has receded into the background, for now. Perhaps the game won’t be painted as a collection of dirty actors; perhaps the focus will be on the talented rise of Big East teams, the super team at Duke, the re-emergence of west coast teams, the mid-major majesties.
But if more names bubble up...?