After several months, the media is finally airing college basketball’s dirty laundry. Household names and programs like Arizona, Duke and North Carolina are implicated. Their validity as a basis for punishment is potentially weak, but the allegations that have come out, and may continue to come out, will be damning to all involved at the very least.
Big names, like Arizona’s head coach Sean Miller, who reportedly is caught on an FBI wiretap with former ASM employee Christian Dawkins, discussing paying $100,000 for touted freshman Deandre Ayton, are already facing consequences. Miller seemingly has been removed indefinitely from the Wildcats day-to-day while San Diego State has suspended star Malik Pope.
Should these top tier programs crumble, the atmosphere would appear to be ripe for reveling in their demise. There are around 350 Division I men’s basketball programs, but only about 30 programs (generously) who have consistently dominated the sphere. A lot of these programs are beloved by many, but hated by many, many more.
Duke is the pinnacle of such spite, but there is no love lost for any dynasties in sport. However there has been little grave-dancing. Not a lot of “told you so” and scarce “holier than thou” diatribes and posturing.
This investigation is ongoing. Its findings and its consequences are still to be determined. But involvement is unquestionably bad and those who are will be chastised right? Right?
There are a lot of reasons why the realm of college basketball has yet to truly admonish anyone. Perhaps many know not to throw stones in glass houses. Everyone who got “exposed” recently had a connection to Dawkins, but Dawkins is certainly not the only shady puppet master in the world of amateur basketball player movement. Any media member will gladly share with you how a lot of this stuff is common knowledge (thanks for sitting on it for years, guys). Players are paid and programs cheat. No one is willing to act holier than thou or profess their acrimony at others because they are likely tainted too. Speak; but get caught, and you will be ruined.
Another possibility is because the power players in the sport know their system is flawed. Scholarship and cost of tuition are great, but economist and common fan alike can tell you that college basketball’s top players have far greater values. It may be against NCAA rules, but is it all that unjust that these guys, at least in Dawkins’ expense report, were picking up a couple extra thousands on the side? They won’t say it, but most people know at its highest level, college basketball is exploiting is players. Those side payments help rectify that, at least partially. It’s hard to really critique someone who, rules or not, is actually helping resolve a problem you are contributing to by doing it the “right” way.
We’re heading towards a tipping point. Noted antagonist Mark Emmert is even admitting that change may be necessary in the future. The FBI’s investigations could possibly lead to an overhaul of the sport. Regardless of what it does the quality of the sport, athlete compensation being augmented is warranted.
A lot of the sports leaders could be outed as cheaters. Privately, many will be pleased to see their rivals fall. But publicly, how many in the industry conduct themselves will be very guarded. They should be lauding themselves for being good actors within the system, but five years from now, in a potentially very different system, or five months from now, when they get caught up too, history could be very unkind to them. As this saga continues, anticipate the atmosphere, save the Bill Waltons and Dick Vitales of the world who are being rather conservative on a game changing event.
Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.