I suppose I’ll finally take my head out of the sand, hold my breath, and write about KU’s name coming up in the most recent FBI indictments related to shoe companies, college hoops, and recruiting.
Over spring break I was only mildly tuned in to news of any kind. At the end of the day, while the family was taking turns getting showered and ready for dinner, I would check Twitter and scroll back just an hour or so to make sure I didn’t miss anything big. It just so happened that the KU news broke right as I was doing my daily check, so I got sucked into the instant analysis. That was a fun half hour or so as I and others speculated on what KU players were involved and combed through the indictment to see how bad it really was for the program.
I’m a little relieved to say, based on what we know right now, it’s really not that bad. I recognize that can change as more information comes out. And it’s certainly not good. But KU has not reached Louisville’s level of filth.
Why am I confident in saying that? Two words: Billy Preston. It is generally assumed that Preston is one of the two players referenced in the KU portion of the indictment. KU kept Preston from playing a single minute in a regular game last season. They appealed his eligibility to the NCAA for nearly three months before he gave up and took a paycheck in Europe. If KU was directly responsible for, or even had knowledge of, Preston and his representatives getting money from Adidas, there is no way they would have worked with the NCAA to get him cleared. That would be both the dumbest and boldest move of all times. “Hey, we arranged for our shoe company to pass a bunch of money to this kid’s mom. But we want you to examine his family’s financial records, our recruitment of him, and then rule him eligible.”
To me – admittedly wearing crimson and blue glasses – that’s a pretty clear sign that KU had no direct involvement in Adidas passing money to players they have recruited.
Again, I’ll say that’s based on what we know now. And I’m not saying Bill Self didn’t sit down with Adidas folks years ago and they had some kind of agreement that any player we were recruiting would get a bag of cash from Adidas if they signed with KU, and that agreement has held without any recent discussions to keep Self and his staff in the clear.
But if that was the case, why would KU rule Preston ineligible to begin with? Why not either let him play and hope they don’t get caught? Or just cut him loose when they believed the payments would come out? I suppose they could have fought to keep him eligible in order to keep his family from talking to the NCAA and spilling the beans. In that case, though, the smarter move is not to hold him in limbo for three months but to release him so he can sign a pro contract somewhere and get paid.
Now Silvio De Sousa likely being the other player named is more concerning. Silvio, of course, did play after becoming eligible in January. He played a major role in the Big 12 tournament championship game win over West Virginia. And he made some huge plays late against Duke in the Midwest regional final. When it became obvious that he was player #2 a lot of KU folks were saying things like, “Well, no need to put that Final Four banner up, because the NCAA is going to make us take it down because of Silvio.”
Now Silvio’s guardian, who allegedly took money first from Under Armour and then Adidas, denies he got any money from anyone. Which, of course he does. They never admit to taking money.
I’m a little less worried about the NCAA stepping in here for two reasons: Corey Maggette and Cam Newton. Duke was the only school not penalized in any way in the Myron Piggie scandal because they convinced the NCAA that they were not aware that Maggette’s eligibility was in question. Their 1999 Final Four banner still hangs. Same for Auburn and Cam Newton. Auburn is still, officially, the 2011 BCS National Champion despite Newton’s father getting paid. As with Maggette, Auburn successfully argued that they were unaware of the payments and that Newton’s eligibility was in question. If it comes to it, that is going to be KU’s argument regarding De Sousa.
Now Silvio may not be eligible to play another game at KU, but I have about 75% confidence that the NCAA isn’t going to make KU vacate any wins from this past season.
Again, this is all based on what we know now and can change if/when more information comes out.
Honestly, I was surprised this wasn’t a bigger story when I got back home and was catching up on news. I think that’s because the facts, as the public is aware of them, favor KU. No coaching staff members were named in the indictment, nor were any arrested in its aftermath. While some bomb throwers have been busy taking the allegations and running with them, it seems like most reasonable, national observers who have examined the evidence agree with my view: KU players, or more specifically their parents and guardians, were involved but so far there is no evidence that the KU program was directly involved.
So that’s my stance, and I’m sticking to it. And hoping more, worse information doesn’t come out.
Besides, Marvin Bagley III’s dad got way more money from Nike than Silvio De Sousa’s guardian got from Adidas, and it was Silvio who cut down a net in Omaha not MBIII. I view that as a much wiser investment. Flags fly forever, fools!
I haven’t dived into the details of the report released yesterday by the commission led by Condolezza Rice on reforming college basketball. I have read some summaries and reactions. I think I have to agree with the KC Star’s Sam Mellinger who said the commission was a disappointing waste of time.
I’ll bullet point the major items here:
* Ending one-and-done. Ok, whatever. Kids should be able to go pro whenever they want.
* Allowing players to get advice from agents. Good. Would be better if they could accept money and stay in school.
* Holding coaches more accountable for cheating. Excellent.
* Guaranteeing scholarships for 3–4 years. Good.
* Penalizing schools who have players go pro early by locking those scholarships until that player’s eligibility would normally run out. Absolutely fucking terrible. Texas Tech recruits a Top 200 player who blows up and is now likely to be a top 15 pick in the draft in Zhaire Smith. They get punished for that by losing his scholarship for the next 2–3 years???
* Giving the NCAA more power over summer ball. The worst.
* Completely punting on every aspect related to player compensation. Cowardly.
In short, a bunch of well-meaning, but half-baked and toothless ideas that, if implemented as expected, will probably cause as much new harm to the college game as it does clean up the issues.
I love college hoops. It’s my favorite sport, the one I live and die with for five months every year. I wish it was like the 1980s again, when the best players – guys with NBA Hall of Fame talent – stayed in school for three or four years routinely. But those days are long gone. The NCAA needs to wake up and realize that, too, and help to create an environment that helps everyone, not just the organization’s revenue stream.