“People ask me, ‘What about your sport Dickey V?’ It’s SLEEZY and I have to admit it!” – Dick Vitale
As first reported Tuesday and Wednesday, shockwaves were sent throughout the NCAA and the college sports world. Louisville Cardinals Head Basketball Coach Rick Pitino was placed on unpaid administrative leave, effectively ending his time at the wheel in Louisville. In his time there, Pitino was involved in an extortion case, an escort service that was used to recruit players using sex scandal and now this latest case, an FBI investigation into fraud and bribery.
Rick Pitino however isn’t the only coach implicated, and Louisville isn’t the only big name school to be involved.
The FBI charges that assistant coaches at USC (former employer of Tim Floyd, who fired him for ethics violations), Arizona, Auburn and Oklahoma State were implicated as taking cash bribes in order to steer college athletes to certain financial advisor and sports agents.
Each coach is facing up to 80 years in prison, according to the FBI.
This is yet another scandal hitting college sports, something that is becoming one of the calling cards of college athletics. There is no honor among thieves and the NCAA itself is the largest thief of them all. How can something of this magnitude continue to occur under the umbrella that is the NCAA?
The answer is pretty simple. The longer the NCAA allows the individual schools to make their own revenue from outside agencies, such as shoe & apparel companies.
UCLA: 15 years, $280 million w/ UnderArmour
Ohio State: 15 years, $252 million, Texas: 15 years, $250 million & Michigan: 15 years, $173.8 million w/ Nike
Kansas: 14 years, $191 million & Louisville: 10 years, $160 million w/ Adidas
There are multiple major programs with their own individual shoe & apparel deals, these deals are extremely lucrative and help to keep these schools as powerful as possible in the NCAA. But they also cause an issue with ethics and morality in the sport.
Rick Pitino and Louisville are under fire because Addidas “allegedly” paid a player over $100K to go play for Louisville, but couldn’t the same be possible for Kansas? Couldn’t Nike have paid top football and basketball recruits to go to either OSU or Texas?
It’s not so far fetched to think that these shoe & apparel companies are perhaps the strongest outside influencers in college sports, and it is evident in the ongoing FBI investigation.
This is the first wave of names and arrests to be made over the next few weeks or months from the FBI, but will it really ever stop? How can there be an equal playing field when there is the unfair advantage of schools like Louisville and UCLA that own a monopoly on basketball recruits because they have the shoe deals and the resources to pay these players, or at least give them more than a normal recruit?
Perhaps the NCAA should embrace the changing time and see the real underlying issue here.
Most of these student athletes are coming from homes right around or under the poverty line, they are in many cases, the families only hope to get out of the current situation. We’ve seen time and time again that the scholarship is not enough. We see the “one and done” chase the money in College Basketball because while they’re generating revenue for the university and NCAA, they cannot afford a decent meal most of the time.
We’ve seen College Football players stealing food, or be arrested or implicated in charges for selling their own signature or their own jersey because they need a little bit of money to help their families.
I’m not saying that the NCAA should pay the players, but perhaps they should find a happy medium between paying them a salary and saying that a scholarship is enough. If there were a set value on what the student athletes can make and make sure that is the same across all boards, it will ease the pressure faced by youths who feel cornered between doing the right thing and what they perceive as the right thing.
When it comes to shoe and apparel deals, the money should be split equally among all the schools. The overseeing system (in UTEP’s case, the University of Texas system) should be in charge of splitting up the money generated equally and spend it on each athletic program under its umbrella. If that is too difficult of a case, then the revenue should be split among the major brands (i.e. Nike, Addidas, Under Armour etc.) by conference.
Every player in the conference gets an equal piece of the pie and the major conferences have to pay an NBA Style Luxury Tax to keep the playing field level.
One thing is certain, the current state of college athletics is not working and needs to evolve in order for these backroom deals to finally be put to an end. As a fan of the NCAA and the sports within, it is growing increasingly harder to watch and support a system that generated billions in revenue, while paying students with an “education” or free ride.
Yes it is what you make of it, but the NCAA is making much more than that where it counts, in the bank accounts.
Author – Mike Tipton (firstname.lastname@example.org ) is a graduate of Socorro High School and current UTEP student. He spent 3 years in the US Air Force and love to travel. Mike currently works at ESPN as a production assistant for ESPN Radio. He hopes to one day have his own local radio show in El Paso.