(With Drew, Tyler and the rest of the KSR staff providing constant updates about college basketball’s latest and greatest scandal, resident “outsider” Aaron Torres tells you what it all means for the “big picture” of college basketball)
For years, it’s been no secret that there is cheating across college basketball (how much depends on who you listen to), but despite what the casual fan might have thought, that “cheating” doesn’t involve duffle bags full of cash and cars magically appearing in your driveway. Instead, it’s much more complex than that, and on Tuesday, fans found out exactly how all the puzzle pieces fit together. It’s a web of agents, coaches, shoe companies and middle men, all tossing money around college basketball like Floyd Mayweather at a strip club.
For anyone who didn’t see Tuesday’s story ( which is essentially “no one” at this point) 10 people involved with college basketball, including four prominent assistant coaches and one high-ranking Adidas executive were charged by the FBI on Tuesday with an assortment of crimes including bribery and corruption.
Yes, you read that correctly: The FBI was involved in an investigation into major college basketball.
For those who don’t understand the gravity of that, please understand… this story is big. Bigger than college basketball, the NCAA or its rulebook. It’s about more than NCAA Tournament bans or coaching suspensions… it’s about guys looking at jail time. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that this will go down as the biggest college basketball scandal since rampant point shaving in the mid-1950’s.
To give you a little background it’s important to realize that this isn’t really “one” story, but according to the FBI, two separate stories, with one common, connective tissue. That connection is a guy named Christian Dawkins. Dawkins had previously worked for a sports agency, but was fired and trying to now start his own agency. Why was he fired? How about, for stealing $42,000 from them… $42,000 in illegal Uber charges. No, I’m not making it up. And yes, this dude got fired for running up his Uber tab (although I’m guessing that isn’t really where the money went). In the pantheon of “You can’t make this s**t up” stories, that’s got to be near the top.
In terms of the two separate sides of the story, here we go:
On one side was Dawkins’ affiliation with four college coaches, USC’s Tony Bland, Auburn’s Chuck Person, Oklahoma State’s Lamont Evans and Arizona’s Emmanuel “Book” Richardson. According to the FBI, Dawkins paid those four coaches to help connect him with players on their respective teams, in hope that when those players left for the NBA Draft, they would sign with him as an agent. Those coaches then in turn gave some of that money to players. They kept some for themselves.
The second part of the story is Dawkins working with a shoe company to pay players to go to certain schools. Using some pretty deductive reasoning it’s pretty clear that one of those schools was Louisville, and that the player who was paid was current freshman Brian Bowen. Using the notes from the FBI, he was allegedly paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000.
So in essence, for every college hoops fan that wanted a look behind in at how cheating works in 2017, there ya go. Agents want access to players. Shoe companies want those same players to sign with their brand when they head to the NBA. Not everyone works together, but everyone wants the same thing: To profit off the best young players in the sport. Just like everything else in life, money makes the world go round, and there was a whole lot of cash changing hands here. It’s also why — as I said at the top — this could go down as the biggest scandal in college sports in a long, long time.
Ultimately, there are so many layers to peel back here and it’s hard to make sense of it all. Let’s start at the beginning.
For the college hoops junkies (which is most people reading this article) it’s hard to know exactly what it all means for the 2017-2018 college hoops season, since, well, the NCAA just got this information like we did. And if we’ve learned anything through the years, it’s that it doesn’t matter how much information they have, the NCAA never moves quickly.
However, it isn’t ridiculous to think that this shakes up the 2017-2018 season as we know it. Arizona and USC are legit national championship contenders, and Auburn is a club which many — myself included — believe could make the NCAA Tournament. But now, that’s all up in the air (to say the least). If we take out the big picture stuff (like coaches potentially going to jail) there is pretty clear evidence — at least according to the FBI — that players on all four teams have received cash payments, which could make them ineligible for part of, or all of the 2017-2018 season. Again, using deductive reasoning, it appears as though pretty clear that those players are key cogs, such as Auburn’s Austin Wiley and USC’s DeAnthony Melton and Chuck O’Bannon. It isn’t also isn’t crazy to think that if those schools don’t have those players, they aren’t really the contenders we thought they were.
And that’s of course assuming that these programs don’t just give themselves postseason bans. There’s no way to know for sure — since again, everyone got this information in real time like we did — but considering how cooperative schools are with the NCAA (especially USC, which is just now coming off major sanctions), it isn’t insane to think that some, depending on evidence presented, may put in self-imposed NCAA Tournament bans. To which I ask: Could you imagine if Arizona and USC just pulled themselves out of the NCAA Tournament? It’d be like the Patriots and Falcons voluntarily removing themselves from the NFL playoffs before they began. How much different would the title picture look?
Moving on to Louisville, notice how I didn’t mention them in that last paragraph? That’s because, they get their own little special section in this. For starters, the cash number thrown around with the Cardinals ($100,000) is much higher than at the other schools, and two, it’s because this isn’t Louisville’s first rodeo when it comes to dancing with the NCAA. Remember all those strippers from a few years ago?
That’s why there are two layers here for Louisville: One, there is no way Rick Pitino survives this. I know, I know, we’ve said that before, but there is no way that a coach — at a school already on probation — can pretend to be innocent in all this. It is just absolutely unimaginable — even at Louisville — that a coach, who just went through one NCAA investigation surviving another.
Not to mention, I also think it’s totally realistic that Louisville could be given the death penalty in all this. I hope it doesn’t happen, because I’m against the death penalty as a form of punishment in college sports, but as I tweeted this morning — long before other national columnists wrote it — this punishment should absolutely be in play. The textbook definition of when the death penalty is supposed to apply is when a school currently on probation once again breaks the rules. That’s exactly what Louisville has done here.
I dont believe in the death penalty for college sports. But if this doesnt warrant it, I dont know what would https://t.co/Uf5rYKF9N3
— Aaron Torres (@Aaron_Torres) September 26, 2017
In the big picture, well, it’s really hard to say where things go from here.
It’s easy to say “Oh, this is the end of college basketball as we know it,” but is it really? The NBA can only take so many players, so even if Adam Silver uses today as a launching point to eliminate the one-and-done — something I think he will do — there will still be tens of thousands of high school players who aren’t good enough to play in the NBA. Maybe we go back to a model where the Top 10 or 15 (or more realistically 30 or 40) high school players go pro every year. Maybe the NBA finally develops its “academy” model like European soccer. One thing I can tell you though is that college basketball will go on. I just have no idea what it will look like five, 10 or 20 years from now.
One thing I am sure of however is this: As long as college basketball goes on, so too will cheating.
I’ve seen a lot of my media brethren talk about today being the day that college basketball cleans itself, but to me, that’s the furthest thing from the truth. Any time there is a valuable commodity (players) someone — although maybe not all – will be willing to pay for it. Anytime there’s a way to cut corners to advance your career (like for the assistants at Arizona and USC etc.) some — although not all — will take it. And any time there’s a chance to make money for doing nothing (like for these players), some — though not all — will take it. Understand, that’s not a “college basketball” thing. That’s how society operates.
Still, that doesn’t make it any less of a sad day for college basketball. And as the FBI continues to investigate, more names, coaches and schools will get involved.
This is only just the beginning.