By Ben Everett | Sports Writer
In late September, the FBI arrested 10 men on charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, four of which were assistant coaches at college basketball programs, as a part of an ongoing investigation into the bribery involved with recruiting.
Arizona assistant coach Book Richardson, Oklahoma State associate head coach Lamont Evans, Auburn assistant coach Chuck Persons, and USC assistant coach Tony Bland were all fired by their respective universities following arrest.
Additionally, Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino was fired by Louisville amidst reports that he knew about a payment scheme towards recruits.
U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim revealed the information in a Sept. 26 press conference, saying that the arrested men were exploiting student-athletes.
“For the 10 charged men, the madness of college basketball went well beyond the Big Dance in March,” Kim told ESPN. “Month after month, the defendants exploited the hoop dreams of student-athletes around the country, allegedly treating them as little more than opportunities to enrich themselves through bribery and fraud schemes.”
The sudden arrests came as a surprise to many, but scandal in sports is nothing new, and Baylor fans know that all too well.
The sexual assault scandal that ravaged the Baylor football program still has and will continue to have lingering effects even though the university replaced its president, athletic director and football staff.
While it may seem far off now, the infamous murder cover-up involving the Baylor men’s basketball program and head coach Dave Bliss was only 14 years ago. Patrick Dennehy, a Baylor basketball player, was murdered by teammate Carlton Dotson, but Bliss told players to portray Dennehy as a drug dealer in order to hide the fact that Bliss was paying Dennehy’s tuition.
Looking to avoid further scandal, Baylor and vice president and director of athletics Mack Rhoades were quick to self-examine.
“When the indictment was announced, we had our compliance office conduct an internal review,” Rhoades told the Waco-Tribune Hearald. “We took all the names implicated and made sure they didn’t appear in any of our database systems. We didn’t find anything. As of this date, we haven’t received any subpoena or inquiry from the FBI. We certainly have great faith in how Scott and his staff conduct the program.”
The Jerry Sandusky trial at Penn State involving the football staff covering up Sandusky’s sexual assault of young boys, Terrelle Pryor and his teammates at Ohio State exchanging championship rings and autographs for tattoos and Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush receiving thousands of dollars in benefits at USC are some of the more notable scandals to happen in the past decade in college football.
College basketball’s past is just as deeply rooted in scandal than football’s. Ranging from players at Boston College fixing games in return for money to Derrick Rose having someone else take the SAT for him so that he would be eligible to play in college.
While college sports is a multi-billion dollar business, the ones who create the revenue, the athletes, are not permitted to be paid per NCAA rules. This dynamic, according to Marc Edelman of Forbes, gives rise to an underground market of illegal activity.
“In the absence of free markets for college athletes’ services,” Edelman wrote, “Darker and more dubious markets emerge that are an ideal breeding ground for unscrupulous individuals to engage in schemes to defraud college athletes and exploit their labor.”
In college, if teams want to gain the upper hand, they need to recruit well. Some coaches have given into the assumption that paying recruits is the only way to compete with already established programs.
While there may be potential changes that could be made regarding NCAA rules, like sharing revenue with players, the reality is college sports will always be susceptible to scandal and the recent FBI findings are only the latest chapter.