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Opinion: Exploitative NCAA Should Be Focus of Probe

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Copyright 2018 The Washington Times
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The Washington Times

 

College sports' biggest scandal shouldn't be the FBI's current basketball probe.

It should revolve around the NCAA rulebook, a weapon of mass exploitation.

But don't take my word for it. Consider Michigan hoops coach John Beilein's comment after Saturday's victory at Maryland, speaking about the need to educate players and their parents.

"When someone's offering them something," he told reporters, "whether it's big or whether it's small, they've got to say 'No,' to [even] a Coca-Cola if an agent's talking to them."

The NCAA is a multi-billion-dollar industry. Top schools exceed $100 million in revenue. Coaches, athletic directors, and agents can enjoy seven-figure incomes. Other administrators and executives can pull salaries in the high six-figures.

But give recruits a Coke and a smile?

A-ha! That's an impermissible benefit!

Yahoo Sports on Friday published a deep dive into the FBI investigation that, so far, has led to several firings, including Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino. Some of college basketball's biggest names and programs are implicated in documents that suggest a former NBA agent gave players and/or family members anything from meals to tens of thousands of dollars.

NCAA president John Emmert released a statement full of the hypocrisy and irony that define his organization.

"These allegations, if true, point to systematic failures that must be fixed and fixed now if we want college sports in America," the statement read. "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.

Emmert is outraged that any dollars from his enterprise find their way into athletes' pockets. The nerve of players to skirt guidelines that prohibit them from getting paid while others are getting rich.

"We are completely committed to making transformational changes to the game and ensuring all involved in college basketball do so with integrity," he said.

"Integrity" is a foreign concept for the NCAA.

If you want to argue that scholarships and expenses are a fair exchange when hundreds of millions of dollars are flying around college sports, fine.

Just don't be surprised when some of that money inevitably finds a way to the top talent that produces it.

Prohibition had a better chance of success than the NCAA's immoral attempt to keep athletes broke.

Beilein has a reputation for operating one of the nation's cleanest programs. His counterpart Saturday, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, prides himself on "doing things the right way," but found himself answering questions about Yahoo's report. Former Terrapins center Diamond Stone, among more than two dozen Division I players listed, allegedly received $14,000 from the ASM Sports agency.

Turgeon said neither he nor any current or former staff members have had any contact with agent Andy Miller or his associates. "I have absolutely zero relationship with that agent or agency," Turgeon told reporters after the worst home loss (85-61) in his seven-year tenure at Maryland. "I wouldn't know him if he walked in the room today."

Turgeon doesn't have to worry about possible repercussions this season, but several coaches bound for the NCAA Tournament are sweating. Programs such as Michigan State and Duke must weigh a risk vs. reward proposition. Continue to play star players mentioned in the report, like, Miles Bridges and Wendell Carter? Or rule them ineligible and launch an internal investigation.

Whatever happens, the fact that FBI agents seized emails and conducted wiretaps related to this matter continues to blow my mind. NCAA rules aren't federal law. Benefits deemed improper aren't necessarily illegal.

Even the bribery charges against former assistant coaches seem shaky. They were paid to steer recruits toward the agency. How is that much different from a referral fee?

I have a mobile app that gives me a bonus for every friend that signs up using my code. Is the app bribing me to send new customers its way?

Emmert and his cronies are loving this. They get to double-down on the faux sanctity of "amateurism," reaping all the benefits with none of the costs while the feds run a criminal investigation.

But the FBI has this all twisted.

The probe should begin — and end — with the NCAA's criminal-minded business model.

• Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.

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February 27, 2018
 
 
 

 

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