Tuesday, 27 February 2018 13:37

Dark cloud of scandal emerging over LSU, NCAA basketball teams

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cloud basketballby Jim W. Miller
Wait. Listen. Hear it? That squeaky, puckering sound you hear is the tightening sphincters of college basketball coaches around the land after last week’s revelations released by Yahoo Sports. One head coach has been fired, another is as good as done, dark clouds surround others and several assistant coaches have already walked the plank. The remainder, mostly innocent, are scrambling to make certain they know what their assistants are or are not doing.

Indeed, coaches at mid-majors might be leaking their own programs to the feds, knowing they did nothing impermissible, but it might be their only chance in a lifetime to be mentioned in the same sentence with Arizona, Louisville, Kentucky and Duke. Just kidding on that one. It’s not a laughing matter. Have you checked your mailbox today? You might do it and be quick about it, because as fast as schools, coaches and players are being linked to the FBI’s investigation of shoe deals and rogue agents, you might be next! 

When Yahoo Sports released details of the FBI investigation of agents Andy Miller (no relation!) and Christian Dawkins, it named names and included amounts that high school and college players and their families allegedly received for everything from lunches to five-figure “loans.” The report fingered all the usual suspects among college basketball’s elite programs. Some of whom  – including Kentucky, Duke and Michigan State – conducted in-house investigations, and, satisfied that at least their current players were not guilty, allowed them to play on Saturday. 

However, Texas sat one player who was named, while Arizona did everybody one better, allowing their named player, DeAndre Ayton, to suit up but benching Coach Sean Miller (no relation!). The cloud around Miller’s head grew a little darker since he also was mentioned a couple months ago along with Louisville’s Rick Pitino and Auburn’s Bruce “Nothing up my Sleeve” Pearl in the scandal where Adidas funneled money to players, possibly through coaches. Pitino was fired as were assistant coaches at Auburn and Arizona. Another coach named in the Yahoo Sports exposé was Chuck Martin, who served on Tom Crean’s staff at Indiana. Current IU coach Archie Miller (no relation!) has said he has “no reason to think that Indiana is involved in anything right now.”

The latest news, at least around here, is that LSU’s first-year coach Will Wade was also investigated for his “recruiting practices” and that former Tiger stars Tim Quarterman and Jarell Martin received illegal payments from agent Miller prior to Wade’s arrival. Yahoo Sports reported Sunday that members of the NCAA enforcement staff have spent "parts of the last six months looking into the recruiting tactics" of Wade. LSU AD Joe Alleva countered by saying that neither federal, NCAA nor SEC officials have contacted LSU. 

I saw an example of how bad things are on Saturday night when I stayed up to watch the opening tip between Arizona and Oregon. Former UCLA star Bill Walton condemned Sean Miller in the strongest tones. Walton first said he would rather be anywhere else than calling an Arizona game and then declared that Miller should never coach again. Basketball is now eating its own!

Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy waded into the cess pool on Sunday, saying coaches are receiving unfair scrutiny, and he blamed the NCAA. “The NCAA is one of the worst organizations, maybe the worst organization, in sports,” he told the Detroit Free Press. “They certainly don’t care about the athlete. They’re going to act like they’re appalled by all these things going on in college basketball. Please, it’s ridiculous and it’s all coming down on the coaches.” 

What frightens me is what will the NCAA do to clean up the mess? Van Gundy suggested that an organization made up of academics who exist outside the real world is prone to knee-jerk new rules and regulations without really understanding the root causes of the problem. But maybe all the bad news is really good news in disguise. Just maybe it’s how a dirty sport cleans up. 

Maybe it’s time shoe companies quit funneling money to recruits so they pick the right school or agents stop courting, and paying, players and their families in high schools or AAU coaches coach with their hands in their pockets? One can only hope that the current bad news, while making head coaches very uncomfortable, is a harbinger of good news to come. 

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My new book, "Integrated: the Lincoln Institute, Basketball and a Vanished Tradition" is now available from the University Press of Kentucky or at Amazon.com.

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