Drug dealers, terrorists and investigations into political wrongdoings — those are the things that come to mind when one thinks of the FBI’s typical jurisdiction, not the NCAA.
Most any good FBI television show features a federal agent in a cheap black suit with knockoff aviators, just waiting for the right time to drop a terrible one-liner about how crime doesn’t pay. Well, apparently it does if you are a high school athlete getting recruited illicitly.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced federal corruption charges against four NCAA assistant basketball coaches who are responsible for instances of illegal recruiting within collegiate basketball. This is different from the the average, run-of-the-mill NCAA investigation, which Ole Miss fans know all about. This time, the federal government is busting people. The three-year FBI probe focused on coaches being paid tens of thousands of dollars to steer NBA-bound players toward sports agents, financial advisers and apparel companies.
Sifting through this information, there are several things to consider. First is establishing the difference between the two separate charges.
The first charge is that four coaches at Arizona, Auburn, Oklahoma State and the University of Southern California took money to steer collegiate athletes toward agents or financial advisers. The assistants named in the indictment are Lamont Evans (Oklahoma State), Emanuel Richardson (Arizona), Chuck Person (Auburn) and Tony Bland (USC). Each of the four coaches faces a maximum sentence of 80 years in prison.
The second charge is that Adidas executive James Gatto was caught paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to players to get them to go to certain colleges and eventually sign contracts with a company that is not named.
While the public does not know who the company is, a single Google search will pull up Market Watch saying Adidas’ shares fell after one of its executives, Gatto, was arrested in an FBI corruption probe.
Though this behavior should come as no huge surprise to any fan that follows the game, this is a huge issue for NCAA hoops.
In response, Mark Emmert, president of the NCAA, released a statement saying, “The nature of the charges brought by the federal government are deeply disturbing. We have no tolerance whatsoever for this alleged behavior. Coaches hold a unique position of trust with student-athletes and their families, and these bribery allegations, if true, suggest an extraordinary and despicable breach of that trust. We learned of these charges this morning and of course will support the ongoing criminal federal investigation.”
Really, NCAA? No tolerance for that behavior? Well, it is against your defined set of rules. So that makes sense.
Will the NCAA support the ongoing criminal investigation? One would hope so.
But the real question is about how far this is going to reach.
What happens when the Adidas executive decides he doesn’t want to eat cafeteria food and shower communally for the next 30 years? He doesn’t want to go to jail, so how many names will he turn over? Where will those names lead?
Already hit by the aftermath, established Louisville basketball head coach Rick Pitino and the school’s athletic director, Tom Jurich, have been placed on indefinite unpaid leave, which is presumed to be the end of their time in Kentucky. Who’s next?
The NCAA exists to keep players and coaches in check, so it is not a good look when the FBI has had to come in and uncover a scandal with the potential to bring down the entirety of one of its sports. And as it stands today, the FBI plans to continue deeper in to its investigation as more information is presented.
Keep an eye on the situation; it’s going to rock the sport, the nation and college athletics.
Cue “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones playing in the background of a montage of arrests.
What if I told you that crime does pay? Now that’s a 30 for 30 I’d watch.