It was long suspected that recruiting in college basketball was a dirty business, but now we know exactly how dirty it is.
Thanks to an FBI investigation that resulted in the arrests of four assistant coaches, an Adidas executive and legendary Louisville coach Rick Pitino being placed on unpaid administrative leave with all signs pointing to his dismissal, college basketball has officially been turned upside down.
Assistant coaches Tony Bland of USC, Book Richardson of Arizona, Lamont Evans of Oklahoma State and Chuck Person of Auburn were among those charged with various crimes, along with James Gatto, Adidas Global Sports marketing director for basketball.
Louisville is one of the schools in the most trouble, as it was alleged that Gatto paid incoming freshman Brian Bowen $100,000 at the request of a Louisville assistant to secure Bowen’s commitment. The allegations seem to be the final straw for Pitino, who saw the Louisville Athletic Board vote to move forward with his termination on Oct. 2, according to ESPN. Athletic director Tom Jurich has also been placed on administrative leave and will likely be fired.
The scandal does not end there, though, as Arizona’s Richardson allegedly gave five-star point guard and former Seton Hall recruit Jahvon Quinerly $15,000 to secure his commitment, and Auburn’s Person was allegedly given money to steer his players towards a certain financial advisory and business management service.
It goes without saying that this is bad news for the NCAA and for college basketball, but where do things go from here? It is clear that the landscape of recruiting in college basketball needs to change.
As recruits continue to get more attention at a younger age, sneaker companies will look to pounce, as they are always looking for the next big name to represent their brand. However, giving a recruit large sums of money, especially when that recruit is an amateur, is crossing not only the moral line, but the legal line as well.
These coaches can face time in prison just because they made an effort to get a top prospect to attend their school, making these actions indicative of how dirty recruiting in college basketball has become.
High payouts like those that Bowen received to commit to Louisville can be attributed to sneaker companies like Adidas who have become major players in recruiting in recent years, as have AAU coaches who have relationships with said sneaker companies.
With what the FBI has uncovered, a changing of the guard could take place, where forming a relationship with a recruit’s high school coach becomes more important than forming a relationship with a recruit’s AAU coach or program director.
Most high school coaches do not deal directly with sneaker companies, making them safer and more trustworthy for college coaches to deal with throughout the recruiting process. This changing of the guard would take recruiting back to the old days, before AAU basketball existed, where the high school coach was the go-to guy in a player’s recruitment.
It is no secret that almost everything in today’s world is driven by money, that top recruits lead to winning – winning leads to more people in the seats and more people in the seats leads to more revenue for the athletic department.
Nevertheless, schools need to realize they are academic institutions more than they are athletic entities.
Very few have shown that recognition and with everything that has come to light recently, one can add the recruitment of teenage high school basketball players to the list of things that are driven by money in today’s society.
Hopefully, the findings of this investigation will discourage coaches from taking part in dirty recruiting activities in the future and the NCAA can move past this to become a better organization.
Tyler Calvaruso is a journalism major from Howell, N.J. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.