Where’s The NCAA’s Accountability In Its Black Market Scams?

Yesterday will be remembered as a day of reckoning in college sports when the FBI revealed that it has been running a two-year investigation into the rampant fraud and corruption that exists in the underbelly of college basketball. 

Recruiting in college sports has long been plagued with coaches, boosters and renegade programs willing to break rules at all costs in an effort to retain the services of the elite teenagers that can immediately pay dividends, both at the box office and in the win column.

Ian O’Connor on Twitter

Major college coach: “Scandal? What scandal? This has been everyday life in college basketball for decades.

For those of us that have been around the college game and the high-stakes world of elite high school hoops, and are familiar with the slippery terrain of recruiting, the latest allegations are nothing new. Corruption has been rampant in college sports since the very beginning.

Many top schools have seen their fair share of scandal, from the SMU football program being given “the death penalty” for illegal recruiting tactics and having a slush fund to finance their roster’s payroll, to the University of Miami being placed on probation for forging Pell Grant applications, to the run of the mill examples of players being offered sex, cars and cash to play for a certain program.

But what differentiates this case from others is that this is no mere toothless NCAA probe. The federal government has now stepped into the fray, with people facing jail time for conspiracy, fraud, bribery, wire fraud and a host of other crimes. 

Power Lunch on Twitter

Amateurism rules have caused an underground economy.” @JayBilas discusses the NCAA scandal on @PowerLunch https://t.co/Cju3TXG0YN

In 2000, the feds tried to flip prominent Kansas City AAU basketball coach Myron Piggie, essentially charging him with similar crimes in an 11-count indictment. But Piggie adhered to the street code and ate his sentence rather than spill the dirt on his relationships with Nike and the prominent college programs he did business with.

If you’re unfamiliar with the recent developments that have the potential to be the biggest sports story of modern times, here’s a quick overview.

As of right now, and keep in mind that we’re simply scratching the tip of the iceberg, ten people connected to two separate schemes have been charged and arrested.  Assistant coaches at USC, Arizona, Oklahoma State and Auburn have been implicated at this time. But you better believe that the small fish are being fried right now. 

How surprising was NCAA basketball coaches among 10 changed with fraud & corruption?

Uploaded by NBA on 2017-09-27.

Along with the coaches, others involved include representatives of adidas, financial and marketing advisers and agents. The basic architecture of the scam is that sneaker companies paid recruits and their families substantial sums of cash as inducements for the players to attend a school that the company sponsored. 

The goal was for the player to have an allegiance to and ultimately sign with the shoe company after declaring for the NBA. The money men paid the coaches to steer star players their way when it was time to sign with an agent and negotiate lucrative contracts and sponsorship deals.  

No head coaches have been implicated, but that didn’t stop Louisville from beginning proceedings today to fire their head coach Rick Pitino after news surfaced that the hoops program was the recipient of top level recruit Brian Bowen thanks to adidas paying his family over $100,000 as an inducement to enroll there.

Jeff Pearlman on Twitter

When the university that employs Bobby Petrino fires you, you KNOW you’ve fucked up. #RickPitino

We can look to two recent examples that have some parallels here. In 1999, a University of Alabama football booster paid high school stud Albert Means $150,000 to come play for the Crimson Tide.

In 2005, Reggie Bush won the Heisman Trophy, but was later forced to forfeit the honor when it was revealed that marketing agents had given his family a rent-free lavish home and close to $300,000 in cash while he was still a student at USC, with the expectation that they would represent him once he turned pro.

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But what makes this case today much more explosive is that the perpetrators now include the NCAA’s bedfellows – the shoe and apparel companies that they accept hundreds of millions of dollars from to outfit their teams and adorn their free labor force with certain logos.

The relationship between these companies and the NCAA has long been an uneasy alliance. Top coaches routinely earn over $5 million annually, and billions are pouring in from March Madness and the college football playoffs in the form of television revenue. 

But the players who create all of these astounding profits, the majority of whom are young Black men, are not allowed to benefit outside of the standard athletic scholarship. 

Jay Bilas on Twitter

A major report on college sports found slush funds, pay to athletes, rampant commercialism…Carnegie Report in 1929. How far we’ve come.

And this is why the NCAA, which is no doubt smiling at this FBI case, should be held accountable as well. Because they willingly participated in this scam by continuing to wage its pathetic war in the name of “amateurism”, when there isn’t anything amateur about college sports.

If anything good comes out of this latest scandal, it will hopefully be that the very foundation of the NCAA and its administration of college sports gets rocked. As things develop, we’ll be witnessing the next chapters in the evolving story of contemporary college sports as the federal prosecutions have now changed the game.  

Jalen & Jacoby – 10 charged in connection with NCAA fraud and corruption

Jalen & Jacoby – 10 charged in connection with NCAA fraud and corruption

While the NCAA itself is not being prosecuted here, the system that they’ve implemented and vehemently defended is at the heart of this entire matter. 

Because when you look at it from a very basic level, if players were allowed to be compensated for their labor, the use of their names, images and likenesses and allowed to negotiate their own sneaker deals while still in high school, these illegal inducements, shady backdoor dealings and cloak and dagger payments would not be a necessary part of doing business in this filthy petri dish of college athletics.

Adidas, Nike and Under Armour have long been competing for the young souls, and soles, of the next KD, Steph Curry, Kobe, LeBron and Michael Jordan. They sponsor leagues, AAU teams, traveling AAU circuits and college programs, not out of any sense of benevolence, but to cash in on that next paradigm-shifting athlete with the skills and cultural currency that will generate billions.

Darren Rovell on Twitter

Six largest college shoe & apparel deals

And the NCAA has long been aware of this, yet they chose to make love to the shoe companies out of pure greed. And this is what they’ve birthed. 

Yeah, sleazy agents and players and coaches on the take have been around since day one. But now that these huge corporate entities are involved, like Slim Charles tells Cutty, “The game’s the same, it just got more fierce.” 

Adidas, Nike and Under Armour ain’t nothing but the baby’s daddy right here. The NCAA is the one who gave this child life.

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