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Wake The Hell Up, NCAA

Remember before the college basketball season when four assistant coaches and six other individuals were arrested in an FBI investigation into corruption in the sport? Well, that story is still going. And it’s picking up more and more names.

Yahoo’s Pete Thamel and Pat Forde dropped a report this morning that they describe as showing “an underground recruiting operation” that could create problems for a number of programs. Notice that I didn’t say a couple of programs or a few programs, but a number of programs and that number, according to Yahoo is “at least 20 Division I basketball programs and more than 25 players.”

UH-OH

At least twenty Division I programs? Those aren’t just a few bad apples or some renegade operations. Especially when the report says there are “potential impermissible benefits and preferential treatment for players and families of players at Duke, North Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, Michigan State, USC, Alabama and a host of other schools.”

Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Michigan State? That blood doesn’t get any bluer than that. Programs with Hall of Fame coaches and legendary reputations. Three of those teams are in the top ten right now.

The documents and bank records surfaced in discovery as part of the federal investigation into former NBA agent Andy Miller, an associate, and his company, ASM Sports. The documents break down the ways that the agency attempted to recruit potential clients and literally include balance sheets with a section header titled “Loans to Players” and a list of players and the announced they were allegedly loaned. Those names include:

Dennis Smith – $43,500

Diamond Stone – $14,303

Markelle Fultz – $10,000

And more. Then there are expense reports that include lists of meals and meetings with players while they were still in college or high school. Really, when you get down to it, the issue isn’t the fact that these are violations of NCAA rules, but that they are so normal, so standardized, that they are being included in balance sheets and expense reports. They aren’t even trying to hide it.

But have no fear, NCAA President Mark Emmert is on it. He released a statement this morning that read:

“These allegations, if true, point to systematic failures that must be fixed and fixed now if we want college sports in America. Simply put, people who engage in this kind of behavior have no place in college sports. They are an affront to all those who play by the rules. Following the Southern District of New York’s indictments last year, the NCAA Board of Governors and I formed the independent Commission on College Basketball, chaired by Condoleezza Rice, to provide recommendations on how to clean up the sport. With these latest allegations, it’s clear this work is more important now than ever. The Board and I are completely committed to making transformational changes to the game and ensuring all involved in college basketball do so with integrity. We also will continue to cooperate with the efforts of federal prosecutors to identify and punish the unscrupulous parties seeking to exploit the system through criminal acts.”

My man, the horse left the barn years ago and you’re still trying to close the door. Systemic failures? How many scandals at how many different programs do you need before you recognize that the system is a disaster? And there isn’t a commission that exists that can clean this up.

Clean up the system? This is the system. When there isn’t a fair market, a black market emerges. College sports generate billions of dollars. The athletes receive little or no share of that. So someone or something will step in to fill that void and find a way to compensate those who are receiving no compensation. That’s capitalism.

And it seems like the only people who don’t know that or are ignorant to that are the NCAA. The only ones who are holding onto the notion of “amateurism” so tightly are the NCAA. Because for everyone else, it’s so business as usual that these things that the NCAA claims are “systematic failures” are literally in spreadsheets. It doesn’t get more system than a balance sheet with the heading “loans to players” and filing expense reports for meals with athletes.

This isn’t an agent problem or a player problem or a player’s family problem. This is an NCAA problem. The system needs to be changed, but if it’s up to the NCAA to change it, don’t count on a useful change.

Until we know more, it’s hard to know how much to actually blame coaches for these payments and dealings with agents. How much did they facilitate/ignore them?

Ultimately, there comes a point when a system is so broken that everyone is breaking the rules, that the problem isn’t the rules that are broken, but the entity that puts the rules in place.

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