PHOENIX – It isn’t just the FBI that wants to clean up college basketball.
The head coach of one of the nation’s top basketball programs wants it cleaned up as well – and he’s not afraid to call out the head of the NCAA by name.
While many of college basketball’s marquee programs have been caught up in a massive federal corruption case in the past year, it’s been business as usual for the Gonzaga Bulldogs, who are 9-1 and enjoyed a two-week run as the No. 1 team in the land.
They’ll likely remain in the top 5 after falling 76-73 to No. 7 Tennessee in a thriller at the Jerry Colangelo Classic.
Competing at the highest level of the sport has become a regular experience for Gonzaga in Few’s 20 years at the helm.
All this while somehow avoiding any connection to the FBI’s wide-sweeping investigation that involves illegal funneling of money to top-notch recruits. Among the schools implicated in the probe: No. 2 Kansas, No. 8 Auburn, Arizona, Louisville, USC and several more.
But even as the investigation drags on and casts a dark cloud over the sport, Few thinks Sunday’s game is a prime example that good basketball programs can also follow the rules.
“There’s two teams today who were competing who do it right. I know that to be true,” Few said. “And there’s a lot of teams who do it right – the national champions two out of the last three years. There’s a lot of great things. This thing is worth saving.”
NCAA president Mark Emmert said earlier this week he doesn’t expect any schools to be hit with major sanctions this season, making certain that this investigation will drag out for a long time – potentially years.
The FBI released its findings and information to the NCAA in November so it can begin its own investigation.
Few doesn’t see what the holdup is.
“I’m disappointed. I don’t think this is something the NCAA needs to take their time on,” he said. “There’s teams out here who are competing for Final Fours and national championships and they don’t need to stall this thing out. They need to make decisions and roll with it. I think that’s on Emmert. Emmert needs to step up and be a leader and make some quicker decisions.”
Three people involved in the scandal have already been convicted of wire fraud, while many others are still facing trials. That includes former assistant coaches at prominent teams.
How deep this will all go is anyone’s guess, but teams like Gonzaga will continue to plug away and insist they’re doing things the right way.
It’s possible the Zags have stayed out of the negative headlines because of the way they recruit.
Tucked away in Spokane, Washington, in a small media market and playing in the mid-major West Coast Conference, Gonzaga has always had to be creative when it comes to finding talent. It’s not going to compete with the blue-blood programs for the top-flight players, so instead Few and company stock the locker room with a combination of international players, transfers and a handful of 3- and 4-star talents.
Look at the key contributors on this team, for instance.
You have three key international recruits in Rui Hachimura (Japan), Killian Tillie (France) and Filip Petrusev (Serbia), two transfers in Brandon Clarke (San Jose State) and Geno Carndall (North Dakota), and a pair of Rivals 4-star recruits in Josh Perkins and Zach Norvell Jr.
This is how the Bulldogs have gotten it done for most of the Few’s tenure, and it’s been wildly successful: 20 straight NCAA tournament bids, nine Sweet 16s and the one appearance in a national title game.
Few claims his secret to staying out of trouble is simple. Just follow the rules.
“Everybody’s got a value system and you can either adhere to that value system or not and you let it become compromised,” Few said. “(Illegal recruiting is) just something we don’t do.”
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