The college basketball world was flipped upside down back in September when the FBI unveiled a nationwide corruption scandal involving apparel brands paying high school athletes and directing them to specific schools.
As the months progressed, more and more information leaked out on the scandal, with just about every blue blood program being named in the reports.
Assistant coaches and apparel brand officials have been arrested. Head coaches have been fired (I’m looking at you, Rick) and many more could be coming. And we still haven’t even seen the grand finale of this ordeal.
Now, the AAU basketball scene may be the next group of individuals investigated.
In an article by OregonLive, a loophole has apparently been found by AAU programs and apparel brands to funnel money to top recruits’ families. In fact, it is deemed “common knowledge” around the travel circuit at this point.
And Duke’s Marvin Bagley III is the center of the story.
According to the report, Bagley Jr. and his wife filed for bankruptcy in 2008 with a combined family income of just over $44,000.
Though specific numbers weren’t released, tax forms confirmed the family listed a home in Southern California in 2012 that one local real estate broker said could range anywhere from $750,000 to $1.5 million. Bagley III was also enrolled in a private school with a tuition cost of $36,250 per year.
So how could they see a financial jump of that degree in such little time?
It was all from the help of a sponsorship Nike signed with Bagley’s AAU basketball program. Just a merchandise-only sponsorship can exceed $10,000 a year, but the money being paid to the coaching staff and those involved with the program exceeds that number by a significant amount.
Journalist and author George Dohrmann wrote a scathing account of youth basketball after spending eight years with a Southern California club team. “If a dad is coaching an AAU team that is sponsored by one of the big shoe companies, that is plainly just a way for the shoe company to dump a bunch of money in the lap of the parent of the young star,” he said.
“Everybody knows that, right? It’s a joke.”
One NCAA regulation expert said the loophole involves college athletes promising the NCAA they have never been paid personally, but the families can still have their financial needs met through these sponsored AAU programs.
Gerald Gurney, a professor at the University of Oklahoma and an expert on NCAA regulations, said “college athletes are to certify that they’ve not been paid anything for their play.”
The Oregonian/OregonLive described the two coaching jobs Bagley Jr. held, and that raised red flags for Gurney. “It’s very hard for anyone who has established a relationship with one of these companies to honestly say they’ve not been paid anything,” he said.
One attorney involved bluntly said it’s no secret recruits’ families are being funneled money by top brands.
“These families are getting paid by the shoe companies,” said attorney Steve Haney of Southfield, Michigan.
NCAA president Mark Emmert announced there would be major changes coming to college basketball by next season, specifically involving the punishment of those taking advantage of these teenage athletes. Will this loophole be addressed in these meetings this summer? Will we see punishment for these apparel brands indirectly funneling money to recruits’ families?
Needless to say, the NCAA has their work cut out for them in the very near future.