CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander are back with their annual “Candid Coaches” series in which they survey more than 100 coaches on various topics in college basketball. Today’s topic? Cheating in college basketball. CBS asked coaches if college basketball is cleaner or dirtier than it was five years ago. The results? Fourteen percent of coaches said it’s cleaner, 37% dirtier, and 49% said it’s about the same.
The difference between then and now? Whereas cheating used to mean a bag of cash or a gift from a booster, it’s much more advanced now that shoe companies and AAU coaches are involved.
“The cheating is worse,” one coach told CBS. “But I think the big-name coaches are less involved because they don’t have to be involved anymore. They’re always three steps removed from it. They just benefit from a system that’s in place. I could tell you how this big-name school got this kid and how that big-name school got that kid. But I really don’t think the coaches at those schools are throwing around cash. They’re just letting a friendly agent or a shoe-company executive do the cheating for them.”
Anyone who’s followed recruiting the past five years knows the pull shoe companies and AAU have over recruits. Just this week, Nike (who sponsors the EYBL circuit) one-upped Under Armour’s Elite 24 event by throwing a huge tournament in the Bahamas AND inviting participants to the White House:
— EliteYouthBasketball (@NikeEYB) August 18, 2016
While most recruits will deny they choose a college based on a certain brand of shoe, the corresponding circuit they play on more often than not has a huge influence.
“Most coaches insist about 80 percent of the nation’s top 10 players, in any given year, are already tied to an agent before they ever even step on a college campus because agents are often deeply connected to some of the top summer programs,” Parrish wrote. “It’s rarely a coincidence when a prospect who spends his summers playing for a Nike-funded team ends up on visits to Nike-sponsored schools. Same goes for kids with Under Armour connections. Same goes for kids tied to Adidas.”
So, the question really becomes: is letting shoe companies/AAU circuits have that much influence any more honest than a bag of cash or a new car?