FBI cleans up for NCAA

FBI cleans up for NCAA

November 07, 2018 3:00 AM


The college basketball season tipped off Tuesday night and you should be excited. You should also be concerned.

For some time, there has been a culture of impropriety that has been hovering over the sport like a dark cloud. Only in the last year or so has any serious light been cast upon it.  

But if all you care about is if St. Joseph’s second-leading scorer is playing against Old Dominion before you make your four-team parlay, I get it.

The recent trial and conviction of an Adidas shoe executive, a former Adidas employee and a former sports agent involving under-the-table payments to recruits to several high-profile programs has exposed the seamy underbelly of the sport. The players were not indicted, put on trial or sent to prison. They will go to college, likely play their one season, then head to the NBA where the real pot of gold awaits. Their college head coaches will continue to have their jobs and despite being CEOs of their programs, were as Teflon as some Mafia Don.

But remember, they got John Gotti. They got Enron’s Kenneth Lay. And when it’s all said and done, the FBI may get more than a couple of assistants who overstepped their bounds in the attempt to satisfy their bosses. The Adidas trial was only the beginning. The trials that are coming in February and April will make the Adidas case look like a traffic ticket in night court.  

The fact the FBI has devoted its resources the last few years to college basketball is a scathing indictment of the NCAA itself.

The NCAA’s very existence was supposed to be about enforcing its members and protecting the integrity of its sports. Instead, it has failed miserably, from its unwieldy and laborious rules manual to its approach to amateurism to its hypocritical stance on revenue sharing. It has no problem accepting billions of dollars from the television networks to broadcast its men’s basketball tournament every March. But when it came to cutting the players in on the action, not a dime.

Had the NCAA been forthcoming with supporting student-athletes (their term, not mine) financially beyond a scholarship, perhaps we wouldn’t be where we are today. Would someone have been greedy and attempted to supersede the maximum payout the NCAA may have mandated? Perhaps. But for the most part, cheating would have been severely reduced.

It’s not like the money wasn’t there. That TV revenue could have been distributed throughout the Division I teams that play basketball. And while there would have been Title IX issues with women’s basketball demanding their fair share, not to mention football players getting their piece of the pie, this could have gotten done. 

Instead, players have to look for other means to be “compensated.” Shoe company executives, middlemen, AAU programs and others have taken over the recruiting process. The high school coach long since became an irrelevant piece of the recruiting puzzle. 

You’re Nike, Adidas or Under Armor and want a kid to play for the college team that uses your products? Sponsor his summer team, take care of mom with a house and/or a job and bide your time. 

For the shoe companies, this isn’t about the kid’s one year in college, it’s about a long-term relationship for what both the player and shoe company hopes will be a successful NBA career. 

And now the NBA itself is getting into the recruiting world. “Hey kid, want to get paid? Skip college, go play in the G-League and we’ll give you $125,000.” For a lot of young players, that will be more than enough to tide them over until the big payday comes on draft night. 

So when you go to the betting windows and make that parlay wager, know you’re doing so on a sport that remains rife with scandal, greed and corruption and is governed by an entity that is not the least interested in cleaning up its own mess. 

But why should you care? Just make sure that high-scoring guard from St. Joe’s has a big game and the Hawks cover.