It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Snow is falling, hot chocolate is flowing, and college basketball has begun. However, what usually is a time to celebrate and rejoice is bittersweet following the FBI’s investigations which culminated in the arrests of multiple NCAA coaches and affiliated personnel.
The unanimous firing of Rick Pitino by the Louisville Athletic Association headlined the corruption scandal. However, Pitino’s no amateur when it comes to scandals; it took three nationally recognized wrongdoings before Louisville declared the termination of his tenure. Even so, he wasn’t the only one in the wrong.
Ten individuals in total from Alabama, Arizona, Auburn, Miami, Oklahoma State, South Carolina and University of Southern California, as well as a few industry employees, are all in hot water with similar charges brought against them. Three different criminal complaints complete with bribery, mass corruption and wire fraud–not necessarily independent of one another–make up the allegations and even as a law nut, I find it hard to understand the jargon that explains the charges. The accusations are more complicated than the Kardashian/Jenner family tree.
That being said, the situation is as follows:
Louisville had its eyes on five-star recruit Brian Bowen out of Saginaw, Mich., who had offers from Michigan State, Arizona, UCLA, Creighton and others but chose the Cardinals. To have offers from some of the best programs in the country is no surprise when you’re a McDonald’s All-American, so nothing seemed out of the ordinary; except for the fact Bowen was $100,000 richer for choosing Louisville and promising to sign with Adidas and Christian Dawkins’ agency, ASM, upon entering the NBA.
Pitino is believed to have been the liaison between former agent Dawkins, Adidas executive James Gatto and Bowen. Pitino talked to Gatto three times, the last of which came two days before Bowen’s commitment. Dawkins was the one who negotiated the contract with Adidas and Bowen’s family but he demanded more money when an unnamed rival to Adidas offered more money. Dawkins informed Pitino “I need you to call Jim Gatto, who’s the head of everything.” The call was on June 1 and Bowen’s commitment came on June 3.
How did this ever get out of the inner circle? Dawkins turned to a different Adidas affiliate, Brad Augustine, to voice his concern. The problem with that was Augustine was an FBI informant. Gatto and Dawkins are at the center of almost every single allegation in the FBI probe and most of them fall along the same lines as the Louisville situation. A recruit is offered money to go to a school, but they only get it if they sign with Adidas and work with Dawkins upon entering the NBA.
When this investigation came to fruition at the end of September, the basketball world was rather shaken up. Less than two months from the start to the season, many questions arose regarding the schools, athletes and their resulting eligibility. Since the allegations came out, five players have been suspended from play, including Bowen.
As both a basketball fan and a person with a conscious, I was upset. How can adults exploit 16, 17, even 18 year old boys? Many of these athletes will be one-and-done–meaning they will play for their freshman season, then declare for the NBA draft–how much difference does one year truly make? As a five-star recruit, these men can go practically anywhere they want. I see the temptation of the school with underground incentives, but the people offering them do not care about them; they care about turning a profit. Since many players fell victim to their selfish intentions, their NCAA eligibility is in question and so is the future of their career in basketball. The college recruitment process has always been shady, but these atrocious events and decisions take the cake.
However disgraceful the scandal was, I will continue to watch college basketball. There is no boycott needed like some have for the NFL and CTE or the Soviet Union in the 1984 Olympics. College basketball is easily my favorite collegiate sport to watch, and that’s not changing because of some poor decisions made by some greedy individuals. The lesson derived by these past few outrageous months simply emphasizes the stress college athletes carry and the need to more closely monitor recruitment.