The 2017-18 season was supposed to be about parity (there is no dominant team in the nation right now), instant impact freshman (Michael Porter Jr., Marvin Bagley III and Collin Sexton, etc.) and the surprising return of superstar Preseason Player of the Year candidate Miles Bridges.
But instead of focusing on basketball, the attention has shifted significantly towards an FBI investigation and one of the biggest scandals in the history of college hoops. Three weeks ago, the FBI arrested 10 people — including four assistant coaches at Arizona, Auburn, Oklahoma State and USC — in a bribery and corruption investigation that shook the world of NCAA basketball.
Bribes were paid to assistant coaches Book Richardson, Chuck Person, Lamont Evans and Tony Bland in order to help steer certain players to sign with a specific shoe company, financial advisor or agent when the players opted to turn pro. Not only did Richardson, Person, Evans and Bland get arrested and either lose their jobs or get placed on administrative leave, Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino also lost his position at Louisville after being involved in a $100,000 payment to the family of an unknown recruit that was later revealed to be five-star talent Brian Bowen. In addition to Pitino losing his job, Louisville AD Tom Jurich was fired, Alabama AD Kobie Baker resigned, recruits are decommiting from universities that are involved in the investigation and schools across the nation are scrambling with internal reviews.
While this isn’t a new problem in college hoops, some believe this could completely change recruiting and even the playing field within the sport. But are we truly positive this is going to instill change? With shoe companies, advisors and agents still lurking, and grassroot AAU programs still controlling the high school game, is it really realistic to say this will all be put to bed? There is still boatloads of money involved in the sport and who says coaches and programs won’t find other ways to put dollars in the hands of student-athletes and/or their families.
So that brings us to the real question: How does this problem get fixed so that college basketball can overcome corruption and constant recruiting scandals?
The NCAA can start by allowing these athletes to benefit off their own likeness. Players should be allowed to receive extra benefits (money, material items, etc.) from outside sources like agents and shoe companies before they make their move to the NBA. They should be able to receive money for jersey sales or autograph signings of their liking.
Let’s be honest, all this stuff is happening regardless because the NCAA cannot necessarily police it all and doesn’t have subpoena power. If the sport does indeed change the rules, they won’t be paying players directly, instead, they will simply be allowing these student-athletes to capitalize off their worth.
Get this: The NCAA signed a 14-year agreement with CBS and Turner Sports that provides conferences and schools $740 million annually (!!) through the year 2024.
And that’s just March Madness alone.
Just imagine what the NCAA makes off television deals with ESPN, CBS and other networks during the season. Just imagine what the schools make in ticket sales to watch these athletes take the court. And just imagine the merchandise that is sold on a daily basis to support these student-athletes.
As soon as this investigation and scandal pushes past the sport (it’s far from over…trust me), the NCAA needs to act quickly. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says he expects the one-and-done rule to change, but maybe his opinion, along with the NBAPA, will shift if the NCAA allows athletes to use their likeness to their advantage for at least one year in college.
Eliminating the one-and-done rule could be a death sentence for diehard college basketball fans, as the best players in the country would likely opt for an immediate pay check at the world’s highest level of basketball. That in turn, would force college basketball to scramble for top-end talent, turning mid-major hoops into a potential nightmare with deteriorating skill.
The NCAA can completely eliminate all these problems and potential future issues with one rule change — one rule change that would change the sport for the better…forever.