The scandal that erupted in college basketball last fall when Adidas was linked to a pay-the-player scandal at four universities took on a new dimension this past week, when first Yahoo Sports, then ESPN dunked hard in the face of the game.
Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Kentucky, Arizona, Michigan State, Kansas ... you name a top program, and it likely was mentioned in the wiretaps and documents the FBI has unearthed concerning former agent Andy Miller.
Shoe companies sign lucrative contracts with universities (and even high schools) and then attract top players by sponsoring AAU teams that tour the country during the summer. Sprinkle in an aggressive agent, an impoverished prospect and an ambitious assistant coach, and you have an acrid stew.
The biggest stench involved the University of Arizona, a national title contender this season, whose coach, Sean Miller, allegedly was caught on tape seeking to make a $100,000 deal to land lucrative recruit Deandre Ayton.
But Duke freshman Wendell Carter Jr., Tony Bradley and Brice Johnson formerly of UNC, Dennis Smith from N.C. State and N.C. high school phenom Bam Adebayo, who signed with Kentucky, all were among those said to have worked with agent Miller to get sizeable loans while they were playing "amateur basketball."
No player associated with these wiretaps has been found guilty of anything or deemed ineligible by any program, except Brian Bowen, whose recruitment by Louisville first exposed this keg of pythons. Coach Miller was suspended.
This is all just more brokenness in a very shattered image of the big-time, big-money conglomerate that college basketball has become. Those elite players, funneled by the shoe companies, show up at a school, go to class for a semester, drop out in the spring and turn pro. The schools, meanwhile, rake in millions of dollars from the NCAA Tournament, buy and sell the player's name and likeness in perpetuity.
The NCAA calls those players "student-athletes," and there are academic progress requirements for the schools. It's silly.
The National Basketball Association shares responsibility for this charade.
The NBA's collectively bargained rules won't allow a player to enter its draft until he turns 19 and/or waits a year after high school graduation. That's why the very best players often are done with one year.
Here are some suggestions:
—Elite high school graduates should be able to apply for the NBA draft and go through evaluations about where in the draft they might be selected. After status is determined, that player can accept a college grant.
—If a player withdraws from the draft and accepts a grant-in-aid, he would be required to stay three seasons, as football and baseball players do.
—That player should be able to hire an agent and be loaned up to $25,000 for every year he is in school, just like any student borrowing for college expenses from any other source.
—The player will receive a percentage of all licensed material a university sells after his departure.
It all sounds so simple, but, then, this sort of rips the scab off phony capitalism, doesn't it?
Of course, we don't think all these issues are limited to big-time basketball. But college basketball seems to create its own flagrant fouls, dating to the point-shaving scandals of the 1940s, '50s and '60s
This black scuff of this sneaker/agent scandal needs to be scrubbed off the court.
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