And now for the not-so-fun stuff surrounding college basketball.
That’s right, no more Big Mondays this year. That’s sad.
I’m kidding, of course. The real thing we need to discuss regarding college hoops is why in the hell the Big 10 is playing their tournament this week. Getting bumped by the lowly Big East and having to adjust your entire schedule by a week, then letting all your teams sit around for nearly two weeks before they play an NCAA tournament game? All so they could play their tournament at Madison Square Garden as a shout out to Rutgers for joining the conference. Seems like a smart move to me.
Last night Rutgers was playing in the opening round. There were not a lot of seats filled. Attendance wasn’t much better in D.C. last year. And I predict it won’t be great when the tournament lands in Philly. But, remember, college athletics are run for the benefit of the student athlete. There is no other explanation why the Big 10 would play its tournament on the east coast. Right?
Ok, on to the real news…
Last Friday sure was exciting. I was on my way home from dropping the girls at school when I got a text from a friend saying Yahoo released names of players that allegedly received money from Andy Miller’s agency, and that Josh Jackson’s mom was on the list. I’m pretty sure I was reading the Yahoo article before my car had come to a complete stop in the garage. Elijah Johnson’s name was on the list, too. That was less than good.
Then later in the day word dropped that Arizona coach Sean Miller was allegedly on an FBI wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to secure the commitment of DeAndre Ayton last year. That was like napalm getting dropped on sports radio and blogs.
There’s a lot going on here. I’m going to focus on the KU stuff, because the larger case has calmed down a bit and some cooler heads have pointed out we should reserve judgement until the information released Friday has more context, find out who is responsible for leaking the documents, and see if there’s more to come.
So, yeah, not good that two former KU players names were on the original list. After some deeper reading, though, I’m less concerned.
Lots of folks have pointed out that one can make a reasonable assumption that Elijah Johnson took his $15,000 well after he had finished playing at KU. The date on the spreadsheet Yahoo released was three years after Elijah left KU, and there was a notation that referred to a European pro team next to his name. This doesn’t prove that Elijah hadn’t taken the money while at KU and it was still owed, but it does make me inclined to ignore his name. If – big if – IF Elijah took that money after leaving KU there’s no issue for KU. I also feel comfortable taking this view because the Yahoo report didn’t play up Elijah’s name, despite him getting one of the bigger payouts from Miller’s agency and him being a KU alum. Seems like if you have a former Kansas guy getting fifteen grand you put it at the top of the story. But the Yahoo story focused on other programs in its opening paragraphs.
Josh Jackson, or rather his mother Apples Jones, appearing on the list is very concerning. The report claims that Apples may have received just under $3000 from Miller’s assistant, Christian Dawkins. A Dawkins email also indicated that Apples was receiving $10,000 per month from Under Armour to fund the AAU program she runs, and also suggested that Adidas might be paying her. That shoe money could be an issue, despite Apples’ being in charge of an AAU team. Josh signed with Under Armour after leaving KU, so while that would not implicate KU in him getting paid, it could put into question his eligibility if you can draw a straight line from UA sponsoring his mom’s program to him signing with them. Not sure the NCAA is smart or willing enough to do that. Adidas is KU’s supplier. If they were giving Apples money, too, did that have anything to do with Josh playing at KU?
Of course Jones denies ever getting any money from Dawkins. Her denial was rather pointed and carried specifics. She doesn’t play. But doesn’t mean her denial should be taken any more seriously than the others that popped up over the weekend until we get more information about these alleged payments.
At a minimum it looks bad. Is it actually bad? Based on what we know now we have no way of determining what actually happened, and what links there are between KU and the money Josh’s mom received. Friday’s report showed no coordination between the Miller agency and college programs. It appears to be more a case of an agent trying to influence kids to hire him for representation after school that coaches trying to find backdoor ways to get their recruits money. Thus, this mostly seems like more of an eligibility question for individual players than a broader scandal that implicates dozens of programs.
Here’s how I’ll breakdown my level of worry for KU.
I am worried because:
- Josh Jackson’s mom is on the list. She allegedly received money before he committed to KU, and may have been getting paid by two shoe companies.
- KU is always in the mix for some of the best recruits in the country. Some of those battles stretch out a long time, which makes you wonder did the kids who picked KU work a better deal from KU, or someone representing KU, than from another school?
- Adidas. Were they as dirty with KU as they were with Louisville?
- Andy Miller is one agent. There are dozens of other agents out there throwing money at kids. How many KU players might appear on a spreadsheet if the FBI raided some of their offices?
I am not worried because:
- Elijah Johnson was the only former KU player that Andy Miller has represented. And he, hopefully, got his money after leaving college.
- KU has finished second for a ton of good recruits over the years. Several of them went to Arizona. Just saying…
- Bill Self isn’t Rick Pitino. His Adidas money goes through the university first. Doesn’t mean he’s clean. But, holy hell, that Pitino contract was dirty AF, as the kids would say. How it survived this long without blowing up is kind of incredible.
- Billy Preston and Cliff Alexander. KU never let one top 20 player play a regulation minute and yanked a top five player off the court mid-year and turned both over to the NCAA for a ruling when questions arose about their eligibility.
- Silvio De Sousa and Cheick Diallo. KU has worked with the NCAA to get each of these players eligible.a
- Combine those four players and KU has spent a lot of time talking to the NCAA in recent years. In the case of each of those players, KU had to be transparent about their recruiting process, relationships between the player and outside agents, etc. Nothing has come up from any of those cases that caused the NCAA to take a deeper look at KU’s program. Again, doesn’t mean KU is clean. But it gives me hope they’re cleaner than others.
A final reason I’m not too worried is that I think the NCAA is going to work hard to make this go away. Or, more likely, not do any work to punish most of the schools implicated Friday. I think Arizona, or one of the other schools named in the initial FBI report in September, will end up taking the fall for everyone else. I firmly believe the NCAA chose not to punish North Carolina for decades of academic fraud not because of some fancy lawyering UNC did, but because they knew pretty much every big time athletic program is engaging in some level of academic fraud. They did not want to have to look into every program and start shutting down the folks who keep the money rolling into Indianapolis.
Same for this case. So the NCAA will continue to issue statements that come off as shocked and appalled that such activity may be going on, and express a commitment to amateurism and the student athlete. But they won’t shut anyone down unless the FBI shares evidence that a program paid a couple million dollars to assemble a roster that got them to a Final Four.
They know if they dive into this new mess, it will require them to take a long look at every program. And I believe that pretty much every player that has come through a major summer program, gone to a prep school, or simply been highly recruited by Power Five conference schools can have their eligibility called into question if the NCAA, or anyone else, dug deep into their pasts. That doesn’t mean every kid, or even every program, is dirty. It means that youth basketball, though, is dirty, and most kids that come through those programs will have received something that violates something in the NCAA’s massive list of things “student athletes” are not supposed to do. Or someone attached to them – a parent, sibling, coach, advisor, or mentor – took something along the way.
I’m not surprised or disappointed any of this has come out. In fact, I’m excited.
This is shining a brighter light on the hypocrisy of college sports. This might finally lead to change. Kids are eventually going to get paid, above the table and legally. The draft rules will be changed. The power of the NCAA will be reigned in. Hell, all the parties involved might even take a crack at summer basketball, which is a true cesspool that preys on young kids who have no idea that taking some money then can ruin their chance to ever play college ball. And, hopefully, the power of the shoe companies will be lessened in the process.
- As Fab Five Freddy would say. ↩