Breaking Down the FBI Scandal

This morning I’ll be appearing on TalkBalkLive with Bob and Josh – AM 730. We’ll be discussing the scandal that rocked college hoops last week.

I went ahead and read the actual legal complaint, so now I can answer some basic questions about the situation:

Q1. People have known for years that money gets funneled from shoe companies and assistant coaches to players and their families. But what’s the actual crime?   

The actual crimes are wire fraud and money laundering. Wire fraud is where an individual cheats someone out of money or property and uses “wire connections” to do so.  Regular fraud is simply cheating someone out of something through intentional deception.

Q2. But who is the victim?

Believe it or not, according to the complaint, the victims were the universities. By bribing potential student athletes, the fired coaches “deprived the universities of their right to control the use of their assets, including the decision of how to allocate a limited amount of athletic scholarships, and which, if revealed, would have further exposed the universities to tangible economic harm, including monetary and other penalties imposed by the NCAA.

Q3. Are we supposed to feel sorry for the University of Louisville and other Universities caught up in this?

Nope. They knew what they were doing. That includes Rick Pitino.

Q4. What really happened?

A few things.

One thing that happened is that Adidas executives, desperate to boost their brand, bribed high level basketball recruits to play at Louisville and other sponsored schools.

Another thing that happened is that agents and financial advisers bribed the coaches to steer players to retain their services.

Q5. Didn’t we always know this was happening?

Yes, but the NCAA couldn’t prove it – because they don’t have subpoena power or the capacity to run surveillance.

The media could have dug up a story and potentially blown the cover off the scandal, but sports media relies on coaches for access, and is more interested in generating content and clicks than doing investigative reporting.

Remember, our local CBB expert is the guy who’s been admonishing Memphis to hire a coach who knows how to “get things done” and lamenting the hire of Tubby Smith specifically because of his recruiting.

Q6: Speaking of “getting things done” what kind of money are we talking about?

Adidas wasn’t playing around.  They paid as much as $150,000 to get star recruits to head to their sponsored schools (like Louisville). And these weren’t one time payments via check – these were elaborate operations set up to cover their tracks. Assistant coaches were involved. Adidas executives were involved.

Q7: Is Memphis in the clear?

Nobody presumes Tubby Smith would ever be involved in stuff like this. Until a few days ago, that was considered a bad thing. I suspect people are now changing their tune a little bit. That being said, I’ll resist the temptation to label some schools “bad” and others “good.” This is an industry wide problem and no school is immune.

Q8. So what’s my take-away as a Memphis fan??

Again, without being self righteous about this (we all loved Calipari, right?), there is a certain vindication for those folks who supported Tubby Smith voraciously.

I don’t support Tubby Smith because he was clean. 

I thought Tubby Smith was a good hire because Memphis basketball needed a culture change. 

Memphis basketball had tried and succeeded to recruit along side the Louisville’s and the Arizona’s of the world. Without the benefit of P5 membership, keeping up with these schools was getting more and more difficult – and now we know a little more about why that is.

While trying to “get things done” Memphis basketball destroyed its own soul from within. This was evident in the aftermath of Calipari and during the entire Pastner regime.

Hiring Tubby Smith was a bold step in a different direction.

Today that step has been justified.