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On Sept. 27, 2017, the NCAA announced it was investigating multiple schools for bribery and corruption accusations. These investigations centered around the sportswear juggernaut Adidas and multiple schools that were affiliated with the brand. Since this investigation was launched, multiple other schools have been roped into the allegations.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation immediately arrested 10 individuals who were involved in the pay-for-play scandal, including former Rookie of the Year Chuck Person, who was assistant coach of the Auburn Tigers. Despite the fact that the NCAA does not financially compensate its players, college and high school basketball is a lucrative business. As early as age 12, prospects are playing on teams sponsored by Nike, Adidas, or Under Armour. This lucrative business resulted in the EYBL being served a subpoena from federal investigators at the onset of this college basketball investigation.
We are now into 2021, and the NCAA has yet to reach a resolution regarding the future of the programs involved in the 2017 pay-for-play investigation. It has been nearly three and a half years since the investigations began. The NCAA even established a third-party investigating group with the goal of being more efficient and timelier in reaching conclusions on these cases. According to NCAA enforcement chief Jon Duncan, this third-party group, known as the Independent Accountability Resolution Process, has caused an adverse effect on the investigations.
“I’m frustrated and disappointed those cases aren’t resolved yet.”
Aren’t we all, Jon?
The Commission on College Basketball, which is led by Condoleezza Rice, has ultimately slowed the investigation process. Fans, recruits, coaches, and administrators are patiently waiting on these rulings. The process is a complicated one. The NCAA is now forced to wait to investigate teams and individuals involved in similar scandals. According to Duncan, “everyone on the enforcement staff understood the urgency of those cases…the minute those press conferences ended, that day we formed a number of investigative teams and were ready to move forward.” The federal officials who were now involved urged the NCAA to stand back while they investigated certain individuals involved. Their case took precedent over the NCAA’s, and the NCAA essentially had its hands tied until criminal proceedings centered around those arrested played out.
The first resolution was made public last June, when Oklahoma State received a one-year postseason ban and was placed on probation for three years. This did not stop them from signing the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit, Cade Cunningham, who many project to be the No. 1 overall draft pick as well. Lamont Evans, one of the former assistant coaches arrested by federal investigators, was accused of Level 1 violations of NCAA policies. Oklahoma State is appealing the results of the investigation. Although the first domino has fallen, eleven other programs still await the results of their own investigations, including blue bloods Arizona, Kansas, and Louisville, along with other major programs like Auburn, Alabama, and LSU.
Some programs have decided to self-impose punishments including Auburn, who has instituted a self-imposed postseason ban this season, and Louisville, who arguably took the biggest hit, firing their Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino. Pitino’s tenure at Louisville was certainly controversial, but the man could flat out coach. Three final four appearances and a national championship were not enough, however, to overcome the wrath of the NCAA. These programs made these moves in hopes of beating the NCAA to the punch, and ultimately resulting in a lowering of punishment via the NCAA.
It is hard to believe that nearly a dozen programs were financially compensating players in some way and still consistently being out-recruited by schools like Duke, North Carolina, and Kentucky. Is anyone in college basketball actually playing by the rules? Would college sports in general be better served financially compensating their players in some way or allowing the major prospects to sign endorsement deals and profit off of their likeness? The future of college sports is certainly going to be interesting, and the results of these investigations will reinvigorate the conversation of whether college athletes should be given more financial freedoms.