Maryland records subpoenaed in investigation – Corruption in college basketball more than a little confusing

Rick Pitino already paid a price, and other coaches might too – but for what?

Let’s say a shoe company guy pays $50,000 to the guardian of a five-star basketball recruit, and he enrolls in a school with an apparel deal with that same company.

Is that an NCAA violation?    The shoe company guy isn’t an employee of the school and the recruit may be unaware of the guardian’s greed.

What if the recruit enrolls at a school unaffiliated in any way with that shoe company?  Is that against the law – or NCAA rules?

Coaches get paid far more money by shoe companies than recruits, and everyone is fine with that?

I’m baffled by the current set of rules

There is one rule I am very well aware of – cash finds value.  It works in almost every situation in this country.  If you can generate wealth for others, they are going to pay you to do it.  The only environment where that level of commerce is discouraged is in college football and men’s college basketball.

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Every time someone tried to apply free enterprise to college athletics, the NCAA enacted a rule to shut the door so the wealth can be managed and shared by bureaucrats, administrators, and coaches.

Money finding recruits who bring value to a university is called corruption.  It’s happened since the very beginning of college athletics.

Stopping it has been impossible for an ever expanding palette of reasons.  Among the best – rules prohibiting the NFL and NBA from drafting players for three and one year respectively has made it impossible for athletes with no desire to attend college to be paid to their value, relationships with brands that benefit from an attachment to athletes need to be developed early, and coaches who want to continue to be paid millions of dollars hope to continue to feast at the trough.

The Rice Commission was tasked with fixing this set of problems, and the solutions they offered never got to the heart of the issue – cash finds value.  That rule is immutable and intractable.

Until the NCAA embraces that very simple truth, it will continue to bloody its forehead against that dense brick wall.

The primary question I would like an answer to is what is behind the relentless public efforts to maintain amateurism in college sports.

My guess is that the answer has nothing to do with right and wrong.  There is no reason to impose some oddly strict moral code that abolishes a pay scale in college football and men’s basketball that exists nowhere else in America.

This is simply a matter of greed.  Cutting a pie into smaller pieces is never the strategy of those who already have access to the dessert cart.  Self-imposed financial diets are never a popular life strategy.

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It’s about appearances.  Duping a gullible public into swallowing whole the sublime notion that amateurism = purity of competition plays a lot better than overt greed.

Let’s play a game called “Find the Victim.”  A shoe company pays the guardian of a recruit $50,000 to enroll at a school coached by a guy “earning” $3-million instead of at a different school where a coach is earning $3-million.  The recruit stays at the school for a year before “earning” millions to play in the NBA.

OK, who’s the victim?

There isn’t one because none of this behavior (other than the recruit being prohibited from playing in the NBA until he’s 19) is predatory or wrong.

Elite coaches get paid millions by shoe companies, and the FBI is investigating families of recruits getting tens of thousands.  One is applauded while the other is prosecuted?

I guess I’m not really confused.  I’m embarrassed I didn’t see through the smokescreen to the greed sooner.

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

One thought on “Maryland records subpoenaed in investigation – Corruption in college basketball more than a little confusing

  1. Chad Schwartzkopf

    While I agree it is a problem, finding the right answer is a bigger problem. My fear is the death of competition. Super teams/schools would emerge on an even larger scale that we see today. The great upsets like we had this past March would become fewer and farther between.


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