When the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York announced on Tuesday that it had cracked a college basketball bribery scandal, the sports world stood still. According to the complaints, assistant coaches at Auburn, the University of South Carolina, the University of Arizona and the University of Southern California accepted bribes to steer top prospects to certain agents and financial advisers.
Louisville and the University of Miami have also been implicated in the form of Adidas, which sponsors them and their school’s athletic departments, paying recruits upwards of $150,000 to sign with those programs to get them under the company’s umbrella, with the hopes of gaining brand loyalty and signing them to later endorsement deals if they blossom into elite NBA prospects.
The latest college basketball scandal is really all about the sneakers https://t.co/PdoYTTbrMH https://t.co/ogCi7eoDnS
Shocking, isn’t it? Well, not if you’re familiar with the ugly underbelly of college sports and the muck and shady dealings that go into recruiting.
Louisville has already begun proceedings to fire their Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino. Assistant coaches, agents and financial planners have been arrested, and when those in custody start looking at the jail time they could face, this scandal is going to break open in ways that can’t be imagined right now.
But one thing that is for certain is the Black college athlete who makes up the majority of the NCAA’s unpaid hoops labor force is about to be raked through the mud, whether intentionally or not. And that’s a travesty.
If you even follow grassroots hoops in the slightest then you’ve heard of the movement that’s coming out of the New York/New Jersey area known as JellyFam. Odds are if you’ve heard of it, then you also know one of the most talented players out of that group named Jahvon Quinerly.
Black athletes in college sports have long been exploited commodities. Disproportionately, African-American college football and basketball players have made white administrators and coaches rich while, for all intents and purposes, working for free. It’s time to stop ignoring the NCAA’s hypocrisy and the racial implications of its labor model.
Young Black men in the teens and early 20’s are the one’s that earn the actual billions that the universities, athletic conferences, TV networks and their sponsors gleefully reap. This does not simply constitute a financial rip-off, there’s an inherent racial injustice built in simultaneously.
The juxtaposition of an athletic scholarship against the economic engine that is driven by the Black athlete, one that allowed disgraced Louisville coach Rick Pitino to earn over $5 million a year, that pays Alabama football coach Nick Saban over $7 million, that produces over $1 billion annually for the NCAA’s coffers, is absolutely ludicrous.
WATCH- Nick Saban Gets Paid
Nick Saban Gets Paid
And that’s merely the tip of the iceberg. The College Football Playoff will bring in more than $7 billion over the 12-year life of its television contract with ESPN and ABC. March Madness will cash in at nearly $11 billion from CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting over its 14-year deal, and merchandising and licensing revenue is in the neighborhood of $5 billion per year.
Rick Pitino, identified as ‘Coach-2’ in FBI report, helped funnel $100K to a 5-star’s family, per @WSJ https://t.co/gUUzyftpBe
With this latest college basketball recruiting and bribery scandal, there’s going to be an immense fallout and some scorched earth. And unfortunately, it just won’t be the shoe companies, coaches, marketing reps and agents that will take the fall.
Inevitably, it will be the players, Black players, that are the pawns and widgets in this unseemly machinery.
In the FBI now taking on the NCAA’s fight to protect “amateurism”, we’ve already had two young men who just arrived on campus whose faces will be attached to this scandal and its associated crimes.
Louisville’s Brian Bowen, a McDonald’s All-American from Saginaw, Michigan, has been suspended indefinitely and is being withheld from practices and workouts. The allegations against Louisville include payments of $100,000 from Adidas to Bowen’s family to ensure he signed with the school.
The complaint alleges that several of the accused men — including James Gatto, director of global sports marketing for Adidas, and Christian Dawkins, a former NBA agent, worked together to funnel the cash to Bowen’s family at the request of a Louisville coach.
Brian “Tugs” Bowen has had quite the journey. After spending the majority of his life in Michigan, he decided to attend a prep school in Northern Indiana in La Lumiere. He was a prolific scorer the moment he stepped on the Lakers’ campus. He helped lead the team to the Dick’s High School National Championship in 2016.
Another highly touted freshman who signed with the University of Arizona – five-star point guard recruit and Hackensack, New Jersey native Jahvon Quinerly – appears unlikely to play for the Wildcats and might possibly never play a game of college basketball.
Quinerly appears to be the player given money from agents, through Arizona assistant coach Book Richardson. If the NCAA finds that he indeed receive some cash, Quinerly could be suspended for part or all of his freshman season. The chatter is that if the NCAA jams him up, he could opt to leave college altogether instead of transferring someplace else for a fresh start, while opting to play professionally overseas before declaring for the 2019 NBA Draft.
The narrative at some point will paint these kids as greedy criminals looking to grab whatever they could under the table. But given the makeup of the college basketball economy, why are we not referring to the actual college scholarship as a bribe of sorts?
Adidas, Nike and Under Armour pay millions of dollars to the universities to drape this kids with their logos. The shoe companies are paying athletes, according to the FBI case, under the table, offering a financial reward for aligning with them. But isn’t the NCAA system also offering a financial award to kids to lure them to certain schools in the form of scholarships?
Wait. I’m confused. I thought the scandal in college basketball was that athletes who make their schools millions WEREN’T getting paid.
That’s just an accepted part of doing business. When the power conference schools reap their millions, that’s somehow kosher. But when the kid sees something extra for the added value that he brings to the equation, he’ll lose his scholarship and be made into a pariah and fall guy.
Make no mistake about it, players like Quinerly and Bowen played the hand that was dealt to them. But they’ll be portrayed as equal conspirators in the nefarious back-alley maneuvering of shady adults that was made possible by the NCAA with its draconian rules on “Amateurism”, and insistence that it’s cool for everyone else to profit except them.
And once again, the young Black male athlete takes the fall and will be assigned their unfair share of the blame.