The NCAA may be the biggest loser when the dust settles from this week’s college basketball recruiting earthquake that continues to shoot tremors into the hoops universe.
College basketball has overcome serious black eyes before and likely will overcome this: An FBI probe that alleges widespread cash-to-prospect corruption involving shoe companies, assistant college coaches, handlers and some within the AAU circuit steering prospects to certain schools.
These are gross violations that speak to the heart of collegiate athletics’ integrity and sportsmanship, not to mention the criminal nature of the charges and impending charges.
Some smart people who have covered this sport for decades believe it could come out better and stronger due the regulations that are likely to follow that should clean up recruiting. But that’s a different topic for a different day.
On point here is that when the national media eventually turns its attention away from the sordid details and toward the NCAA it must ask a very simple question, it won’t be a good look for NCAA President Mark Emmert.
How did the NCAA not know this was going on?
If we are to take Emmert at his word in a release Tuesday afternoon, the NCAA did not know:
"The nature of the charges brought by the federal government are deeply disturbing. We have no tolerance whatsoever for this alleged behavior. Coaches hold a unique position of trust with student-athletes and their families and these bribery allegations, if true, suggest an extraordinary and despicable breach of that trust. We learned of these charges this morning and of course will support the ongoing federal investigation."
How is this even possible?
This was going on from coast to coast, with Power 5 programs heavily involved and cash exchanging hands at an alarming rate.
The school that is currently front and center in the FBI’s probe, Louisville, has been under NCAA investigation for a few years for other matters. How can the NCAA be on Louisville’s campus and around town at the same time the FBI is digging and not know it?
It seems unfathomable this is even possible.
Furthermore, once this story broke sportswriters of various experiences and specialties from around the country began tweeting and posting on message boards stuff they’ve known about – cash to players – for the last several years. Few were surprised, none were shocked.
National TV pundits even articulated specific examples of cash-to-player examples as if it was common knowledge
So, again the question begs: HOW ON EARTH DID THE NCAA NOT KNOW?
On its own official website, NCAA.org, right there in its mission statement, the second item listed in its “Core Values” is the following:
*The highest levels of integrity and sportsmanship.
Thus, policing recruiting shenanigans is among its very top priorities. It is essential to the NCAA exercising its own mission statement.
One point of view is that the NCAA knew about all of this, but since this has apparently been so rampant it looked the other way because the alternative would have been to come down hard on so many prominent programs that regularly make up the men’s basketball NCAA Tournament field. You know, the cash cow that feeds the NCAA’s very existence.
In April of 2016, CBS extended its deal to broadcast the NCAA Tournament through 2032 bringing the annual haul by the NCAA to more than a billion dollars a year. That’s enough dough to make a lot of organizations look the other way.
If the NCAA is guilty of turning a blind eye, it’s no different than the sweat-suit, gold-chunk bracelet-wearing, slicked-back-hair handler knee-deep in brokering many of the deals the FBI is exposing.
On the other hand, if we are to take Emmert at his word, the NCAA is clearly incompetent and unable to oversee its own operation.
Lets see, if the NCAA were to pounce on a school for such an egregious lack of oversight it would charge it with the Level One violation “Lack of Institutional Control.” The NCAA has levied that charge with far less information and evidence on all kinds of issues many schools have faced for years than what the FBI has put forth.
The NCAA has acted outside of its own bylaws and stated jurisdiction to punish schools even though it had no grounds to do so. It’s trying to do that again in a very prominent ongoing case.
In recent history, we have seen the NCAA go rogue several times to act on issues that simply do not fall under its umbrella, yet here, in this case the FBI has exposed, it knew absolutely nothing?
There is no greater example of Lack of Institutional Control. So if the NCAA is so negligent in its own stated mission, how on earth is it capable of adjudicating the same charges against member schools?
So, given what we know, the NCAA either looked the other way and is as complicit as any runner, handler or shoe company bum slithering around the AAU circuit, or it is wholly incompetent and has failed miserably at one of its primary stated missions.