Over the past six months, we’ve seen a torrent of fascinating reports about college basketball coaches, shoe guys, and players allegedly running afoul of a variety of NCAA rules and federal laws.
Careers have been ended or derailed, and indictments are still pending. Meanwhile, games are still being played and legacies etched by those playing and coaching a great game. We are three days away from March – as in March Madness – a monthlong celebration of a great series of 40-minute tests that will determine the next National Champion.
It’s easy to be outraged by occasional lapses in judgment that led to the indictments and firings, but there are a few things you need to keep in mind as you assess the college basketball environment as a cesspool of criminality and exploitation.
Here are five of those things:
5 – Cash is always going to find value. This isn’t physics as Isaac Newton defined it, but it’s damn close. When talent drives profit, talent will get a share of that profit. The NCAA can try like hell to stop it, but cash is going to find a way to slip into the pockets of athletes or those close to them. Blaming an 18-year-old for accepting cash from a shoe guy establishes a standard of behavior most of us would shun.
4 – This is nothing new. Corruption in collegiate athletics has been around since the very beginning, and is featured as a plot point in movies nearly a century old starring The Marx Brothers (“Monkey Business”) and John Barrymore (“Hold that Co-ed”). There has been outrage followed by attempted reform throughout the last 100+ years with very little accomplished. It’s likely we will see the same result this time around because the corruption is mostly victimless.
3 – The one-and-done requirement is an NBA rule. The NCAA has nothing to do with the rule that mandates that potential pros play in college (or somewhere else) before being eligible to play in the NBA. It exists primarily to delay a player’s contractual progression to a max deal until his productivity equals team investment. Stan Van Gundy railed against the one-and-done rule as though it comes from the NCAA. It doesn’t.
2 – Parents are legally paid a sweet sum by shoe companies. Let’s say there is a high school player who is high demand, and a shoe company wants to establish a financial relation with him. In many instances, the shoe company will pay the father of the player a significant amount of cash to run the summer hoops program for whom the kid plays. It’s clean, easy, and entirely legal. The dad can even be retained as a consultant for the shoe company while the kid plays in college.
1 – 99.7% of NCAA Division One college basketball players do it on the up and up for the right reasons. There are 351 D-1 programs with 13 scholarship players each. That means there are 4,563 scholarships available, and only 18 freshmen players were selected in the 2017 NBA Draft. We spend a lot of time talking about the one-and-done and its effect on college hoops, but it really isn’t an issue for vast majority of players and teams. Those players getting a quality education while playing basketball far outnumber those who use college hoops as a way station before playing in the NBA.
Kent Sterling hosts the fastest growing sportstalk show in Indianapolis on CBS Sports 1430 every weekday from 3p-7p, and writes about Indiana sports at kentsterling.com.