Press Box Perspective: Show Me The Money

By Seth Rivello

NCAA men’s basketball has been hitting small speed bumps for years now, but most of the issues were swept under the rug. But now with help from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, things have blown up.

Coaches and schools have been giving players improper benefits for years now which shouldn’t be a shock to many. Benefits include women, housing and a lot of money. As great as this is for the players, the NCAA could crash and burn or could change all together.

In 2015, the No. 1 ranked player coming out of high school was Ben Simmons. Simmons was a five-star prospect rated 97/100, according to ESPN. He chose to sign with Louisiana State University in 2013, a team that was nowhere near a championship run, and never decommit.

Michael Porter Jr. was the second-best high schooler in the country last season. Like Simmons, he was a five-star prospect and rated a 97/100. He signed with the Missouri Tigers, another team nowhere near a championship run. They may have signed to put the team back on the map, but I think it’s obvious they signed for other reasons.

Former Louisville Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino was the coach who set everything off. A women detailed illegal parties thrown for incoming recruits that Pitino denies knowledge of. Pitino is also accused of knowing about a $100,000 payment made by Adidas to five-star recruit Brian Bowen and his family. Adidas sponsors Louisville basketball on a $160M deal.

As a punishment by the NCAA, Louisville must vacate all wins and revenue from 2011-2015.

Louisville loses its 2013 national title as well as its 123 wins from those four seasons in which ineligible athletes competed. Also, it must return about $600,000 in conference revenue from the 2012-15 NCAA tournaments.

“I feel awful for what has happened,” Pitino said at a press conference at the Greenberg Traurig law firm in Midtown Manhattan on Wednesday. “I’ve run a clean program all my life.”

Arizona Wildcats head coach Sean Miller was caught on an FBI wiretap in 2016 talking with Christian Dawkins about the recruitment of DeAndre Ayton. Miller discussed the payment of $100,000 to ensure Ayton signed at Arizona. Miller is still pleading his case and believes the truth will come out and he will soon be back in the driver seat for Arizona.

These are just a few big cases. Christian Dawkins plays a role in hundreds more. Dawkins, a sports agent at ASM sports, wasn’t very good at his job even though his name is all over the news. Many players he and his company paid didn’t even sign with them.

Dennis Smith Jr. was paid up to $73,500 in loans while at North Carolina State, he later signed with Paramount Sports and Entertainment and now plays for the Dallas Mavericks. Former Seton Hall guard Isaiah Whitehead was paid up to $37,657 in loans and did sign with ASM. He later left to sign with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation.

Many players and coaches are being exposed for wrongdoing and it’s only going to grow. Soon bigger and legendary names like Roy Williams for North Carolina and Mike Krzyzewski for Duke could be called and their legacy could plummet in the eyes of the NCAA.

One way to fix this is to pay the players. You pay them by their rankings; if you produce and have a high upside you get the most, if you ride the bench you get the least. If you just want to play ball, get paid, and not go to school, you could do that, but when you graduate and have no job there’s a problem. Not everyone makes the NBA.

If the NCAA doesn’t shape up and do what’s been being done but in a legal way, AAU basketball will take off even higher and all the talent will play overseas and get paid for a year until an NBA team calls and drafts them. The NCAA may have just hit rock bottom.

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