Sean Miller, Deandre Ayton Revelations Show CBB Chaos Is Here to Stay
Young Kwak/Associated Press
You are not surprised. You knew. The sport of college basketball is suddenly in complete chaos from an FBI investigation into players being paid and agents getting their dirty hands involved. Some of the biggest names in college basketball—players and coaches—are popping up.
A prediction: Soon, those names will be falling down. On Friday, ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach reported that FBI wiretaps caught Arizona coach Sean Miller talking with a representative for an agent about making a $100,000 payment to land star prospect Deandre Ayton. Now, Ayton might be the national player of the year if he is still playing by the NCAA tournament. And if Miller is still coaching.
Not long ago, Rick Pitino was thrown out.
Who knows how many American college basketball coaches are nervous about what they might have said on phone calls. The FBI has thousands of tapes. Thousands. It’s not a Sean Miller problem. The problem is the culture of college basketball. And this is not a short-term chaos for the sport, but instead the new normal.
On Friday, Yahoo Sports’ Pat Forde and Pete Thamel reported the FBI investigation has targeted possible NCAA rules violations in more than 20 programs, including blue bloods Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State, Kansas and Kentucky. Schlabach wrote that three dozen teams might be penalized.
You knew. Come on. You did. The coaches say they are surprised, but they knew, too. The players knew. The agents. The college athletic directors. The college presidents. The TV networks. Everyone knew there was a problem. But that’s not new; the chaos is. Everyone protected everyone else in a perfect harmony because they all knew there was enough money to go around. And what happened?
Sean MillerRalph Freso/Associated Press
For some reason, the FBI got involved, and it dropped a bomb right in the middle of this web. The FBI is blowing up college basketball.
So we all already knew but didn’t want to see how the sausage was made. And everyone ignored rampant systemic corruption in our education system because March Madness is so fun, and we don’t want to mess up our brackets.
The FBI is forcing everyone to pay attention.
It’s rare to see the foundation of an entire sport start to crumble. Baseball went through something similar in the early 2000s with its steroid scandal. The public lost trust that the games were legitimate. Attendance crashed. There seemed to be no way to police the players, no way to regain public faith.
But baseball survived, recovered. And somehow, people now refer to that old time as “the steroid era,” as if everything is all good and clean now.
It is mind-boggling to think how far this basketball scandal might go. What is Arizona going to do now? Is it going to risk the anger of the NCAA by playing a player, and keeping a coach, who might have been in serious violation of major rules? Is it going to risk muddying the sport’s entire financial base, the NCAA tournament, next month?
And what about all the others? If other coaches step in front of this and self-police, the NCAA might go easy on them. But how many coaches might that mean?
Most importantly: What about Mike Krzyzewski? Yahoo Sports reported his Duke program is being investigated, too. If Krzyzewski goes down, then college basketball goes down with him. Yes, he means that much. Whether you believe that he truly represents the last wholesomeness of the game, that is his image.
He stands as the ultimate proof that college sports can be good. If he goes down as part of this, it will be hard to imagine what college basketball will look like.
It’s too messy to untangle all the allegations here. The investigation centers on agents supposedly paying recruits to go to a college in return for signing later with that agent. Or in return for the college sending other players to that agent.
NCAA president Mark EmmertShizuo Kambayashi/Associated Press
It’s no surprise. It will be interesting to see what federal crimes are being committed, why the FBI got involved. The bureau is not in place to enforce NCAA rules. And that’s what has already set off critics, who say college players should be paid anyway. They bring millions of dollars into the system and are, theoretically, the only ones not getting a piece of the pie.
But that’s another argument entirely. This scandal is not about college coaches, agents, athletic directors and presidents trying to right a wrong by throwing a few dollars toward a poor, young player in need.
Get serious. It’s about cheating. It’s about greed.
It’s about college basketball.
“These allegations, if true, point to systematic failures that must be fixed now if we want college sports in America,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement. “Simply put, people who engage in this kind of behavior have no place in college sports.”
Do you think he didn’t know?