Willard showed proper initiative in FBI allegations response
Since the City College of New York point-shaving scandal of 1951, college basketball has not been a clean sport by any stretch of the imagination.
Despite the various point-shaving and recruiting scandals that have turned college basketball on its head over the years, Yahoo Sports’ latest report of corruption within recruiting released on Feb. 23 takes the cake as the biggest story in the history of college basketball.
From the bluebloods programs such as Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State to the small-conference programs, such as Delaware State who have not achieved relevancy in decades, the number of programs caught up in college basketball’s latest case of corruption displays the magnitude of the problem the NCAA now has to deal with.
It is a flaw in the system and it needs to be addressed. However, that is not the problem at hand right now. Rules are put into place for a purpose and coaches across college basketball have been violating recruiting rules for years.
Now, it is time for those coaches to face the music.
As expected, the coaches implicated have done anything but face the music. Instead, most have either released generic statements denying any involvement, such as the one Kentucky head coach John Calipari issued on the day that the report surfaced.
“I have no relationship with Andy Miller or any of his associates,” Calipari said, according to USA Today. “Neither my staff nor I utilized any agent, including Andy Miller or any of his associates, to provide any financial benefits to a current or former Kentucky student-athlete. We will cooperate fully with the appropriate authorities.”
Some coaches, such as Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard and Xavier’s Chris Mack, have done their part in facing reporters with legitimate responses, not statements that seem as if an attorney authored them prior to public release.
“[Miller] plays no role in the recruitment of potential student athletes on Xavier’s behalf,” Mack said. “Beyond that, our staff has never created a path for him to foster a relationship with any of our student-athletes while enrolled at Xavier. Any suggestion that I or anyone on my staff utilized Andy Miller to provide even the slightest of financial benefits to a Xavier student-athlete is grossly misinformed.”
“We’ve already hired an outside law firm to come in and do an investigation,” Willard said. “As a staff and as the head coach, I’m looking forward to having them come in. We’re going to be 100-percent open, we’re going to be 100-percent honest and I have a lot of confidence in my staff and ourselves in what we’ve done in the past. I’m glad the school has moved quickly on this so we can move on from this.”
While no coach is going to provide a 100 percent transparent answer regarding the scandal, accountability is key in a situation of this magnitude. Mack was the only coach to respond to Yahoo’s request for comment, while Willard was the only coach to give a true open-ended answer and welcome an investigation in a post-game press conference.
Could Willard and Mack be lying and giving the media answers that they want to hear? Certainly. However, there is something to be said about their responses in comparison to other coaches around the country.
Calipari and Kentucky’s response is the standard operating procedure in a situation such as the one programs across the country currently find themselves in. While pre-drafted statements such as Calipari’s have been accepted in past years, now is the time to press the coaches involved in the scandal.
It is time to hold the serial rule breakers accountable, and not just let them off with a slap on the wrist. Accepting statements such as the one Calipari issued is no longer acceptable, as college basketball fans deserve answers as to why the sport now has a dark cloud hovering above with March Madness approaching.
College basketball needs to be cleaned up, and the first step in doing so is ensuring that coaches are accountable for their actions. If Willard and Mack can do it, the likes of Mike Krzyzewski, Calipari and Tom Izzo should step up to the microphone and do the same for the benefit of the sport.
Tyler Calvaruso is a journalism major from Howell, N.J. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.