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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)
Captain Renault offers feigned French indignation in the movie Casablanca when he says he is "shocked - shocked! - to find gambling going on" at Rick's Cafe.
Just then a croupier hands him a pile of cash: "Your winnings, sir."
Leaders at schools caught up in the unfolding college basketball scandal have expressed surprise at the federal bribery and fraud charges revealed this week. They've said their institutions are committed to integrity and playing by the rules.
Jimmy Gurule, a professor of law at Notre Dame Law School, thinks it is wise to view such statements with some degree of skepticism.
"The problem, of course, is you've got to engage in due diligence," he tells USA TODAY Sports. "So it's interesting that they're saying this now. Is that something new? Is that something that has been reinforced by the administration consistently? Or is that a kind of matter-of-fact sentiment now that people have been caught?"
The case announced by the government this week includes allegations that representatives from Adidas, the shoe company, promised six-figure payments to players' families for committing to schools sponsored by the company.
"You really do have to look at the bigger institutions and issues," ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Williams says. "People are making parents and players and shoe companies out to be these big crooks, but the shoe companies pretty much own the schools."
The tawdry tale also includes allegations that coaches steered players to financial advisors, treating teenagers like a stock to invest in, a hedge against the millions they might make someday in the NBA.
"For these men, bribing coaches was a business investment," said Joon Kim, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York as federal investigators unveiled their case. "They knew corrupt coaches, in return for bribes, would pressure players to use their services."
Ten men, including assistant coaches from four schools - Arizona, Auburn, Oklahoma State and USC - have been arrested in separate but related schemes revolving around recruitment. They face charges that include conspiracies to commit wire fraud and money laundering.
Gurule offers the perspective of a former federal prosecutor. And he believes the prosecutors in this case will use the prospect of jail time as leverage to get cooperation from those charged in potentially identifying more schools, more coaches, more companies and more conspiracies.
"When someone is facing the prospect of virtually the rest of their natural life in prison, there is a real incentive for that person to do what he can or she can to reduce the sentence," Gurule says. "So I would expect that the prosecutors in this case would be talking to the defense attorneys for a possible plea bargain in exchange for information ... to identify the full scope of potential criminality."
That means the scandal could grow larger, possibly much larger, in the weeks and months ahead - a timeframe that coincides with the coming college basketball season. Practice begins in October and the regular season in November. Who knows how many schools could be implicated by the time March Madness rolls around?
"I wish I could say I was surprised by the allegations contained in the complaint. I am not," says Sathya Gosselin, an attorney with Hausfeld LLP, the firm that represented the plaintiffs in the O'Bannon v. NCAA antitrust litigation. "I think the scenarios alleged in the complaint are very much an outgrowth of rules that permit the schools - and school athletic department personnel - to benefit from financial arrangements and corporate sponsorships from third parties, but not to the student-athletes."
The scandal has already claimed the career of a Hall of Fame coach. Louisville's Rick Pitino is on unpaid administrative leave in advance of his firing once a contractually mandated waiting period is over. His program is already under NCAA probation for providing prostitutes to recruits. He said he didn't know anything about that scandal - and says the same about this one.
The NCAA is the outfit that runs March Madness, marketing moniker for the men's basketball tournament that will produce more than $1 billion per year for television rights when its new contract kicks in. The NCAA is also a watchdog, though it is difficult to watch over the roughly 360 Division I schools eligible for the riches of the tournament.
"The NCAA, they're not an investigative agency," Gurule says. "They don't have the authority to subpoena witnesses and documents. They don't have the authority to put witnesses before the grand jury."
The government can do all of that and more. In this case, federal authorities used undercover agents and wiretaps to infiltrate the netherworld of recruiting, where coaches of grassroots AAU basketball programs, rather than of high school teams, hold outsize influence.
The same shoe companies that sponsor college basketball programs often sign top AAU programs to sponsorship deals. The companies also sponsor AAU "showcases" - basketball tournaments where coaches, recruiters, shoe company reps, sports agents and players are all in the same place at the same time. Critics have long contended that's a breeding ground for corruption.
The FBI said this week that its wiretaps captured a shoe company executive and an AAU coach arranging payments to keep players in the company's fold. The coach of an Adidas-sponsored AAU team in Florida was among those arrested.
Perhaps most surprising about all of this is the level on which it wasn't really a surprise. College basketball is a world where coaches make millions and shoe companies spend millions but the athletes on whom these coaches and companies depend play for free. There is a lot of leeway for the unscrupulous not simply to bend the rules but to obliterate them.
"You hear people say that this is business as usual, that this is the tip of the iceberg, that this is pervasive," Gurule says. "If those claims are proven true, or even half true, it's going to be devastating to college athletics."
Williams says coaches finding loopholes in recruiting is as old as college sports. "But 30 years ago," he says, "coaches weren't making $7.1 million, the NCAA tournament rights weren't being sold for (billions) and it's only going to get bigger.''
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