Fri Jul 23 09:30am EDT
ESPN.com's Dana O'Neil anonymously surveyed 20 high-profile college basketball coaches at the EYBL Peach Jam last week, seeking their opinion on some of the biggest issues plaguing college basketball.
O'Neil's entire piece is a must-read for anyone interested in a candid behind-the-scenes look at the seamy side of college hoops, but here are the five revelations I found to be the most interesting:
1. Which league is the cleanest and dirtiest?
Eleven coaches named the Big Ten as the cleanest league and 14 identified the SEC as the dirtiest, responses that I think would mesh with the perception of the general public as well.
What that means is that Michigan State's six Final Fours in 12 years are all the more impressive because Tom Izzo's peers appear to believe that he's winning without bending any rules. And on the other end of the spectrum, if SEC programs are truly some of the dirtiest in college hoops, shouldn't the conference be consistently better?
2. How many programs are committing major violations?
I'm pleasantly surprised that only four of 20 coaches estimated that more than 25 percent of programs are guilty of major violations. Given that many cynics assume that everyone cheats, it's nice to know that coaches believe at least three-quarters of their peers probably aren't blatantly flouting the rules.
So why is there the perception that more schools are cheating? I thought this quote summing up the backstabbing in the sport was telling.
"Here's what I think happens a lot — a team loses a kid to someone else and all of a sudden that someone else is cheating," one coach said. "Every time North Carolina loses a kid, someone else is cheating. It's like there's so much arrogance with them; they can't believe someone would rather go somewhere else, so the other team has to be cheating.''
3. How are agents funneling money to players?
It's certainly no surprise that coaches named agents and runners as the biggest problem facing the sport, but the sophisticated methods of funneling money to players confirm that recent reports weren't isolated incidents. Coaches said agents will offer a loan or line of credit through a financial adviser (a la Oklahoma's Tiny Gallon), give players a pre-paid debit card or pay AAU coaches to essentially serve as runners (a la Pat Barrett, Jay Williams and Ceruzzi Sports).
The lesson here: Cheaters aren't handing kids brown bags full of cash anymore.
4. How often do parents or AAU coaches have their hands out?
Twelve of 20 coaches said it has happened to them directly and all 20 acknowledged it's certainly going on, which is disheartening yet not at all surprising to anyone who has paid attention in recent years.
No one admitted to completing the transaction, yet all 20 said they lost a player because they chose not to complete the transaction.
"I think a lot of times they're just floating it out there, see if you'll bite,'' another coach said. "But you know what? If you don't, someone else might.''
5. If coaches know a kid or a program is cheating, why don't they report it?
Here's how one coach responded to O'Neil when asked a similar question:
"If you snitch, you're Abar Rouse (the former Baylor assistant who taped the phone conversation with then-coach Dave Bliss and has since been ostracized from coaching). That's why no one talks. Plus, how do you prove it? I know stuff. I know stuff that is 100 percent happening right now, but the NCAA wants proof. How can I prove it?"
It's understandable that nobody wants to be shunned by his peers, but the no-snitch code among coaches is one of the biggest reasons the sport is this corrupt. Even if not every accusation from a fellow coach can be proven, the mere threat of one being made might be enough to dissuade coaches from cheating out of fear that word will leak.