The NCAA is again reactionary instead of proactive in its handling of a serious development involving student-athletes and prospects still in high school.
The FBI came down hard on college basketball two weeks ago exposing the alleged fraud that exists with recruiting, implicating assistant coaches, shoe executives, sports agents and families of recruits.
These alleged illegal cash exchanges resulting from bribes are so serious, tearing at the fabric of amateur college athletics, that the question of “how could they not know?” should not only extend to the head coaches.
That question should land at the feet of the NCAA.
It is ironic that the NCAA could penalize Arizona and Sean Miller for a lack of institutional control with Miller being oblivious of assistant Book Richardson’s alleged involvement with the law-breaking improprieties. The NCAA itself is behaving like it is flabbergasted about what was revealed two weeks ago.
The governing body on Wednesday formed a Commission on College basketball because the “recent news of a federal investigation into fraud in college basketball made it very clear the NCAA needs to make substantive changes to the way we operate, and do so quickly,” according to a statement from NCAA president Mark Emmert.
What better way to save face and execute damage control than to have a former Secretary of State — Dr. Candoleeza Rice — chair this commission? Members include Emmert, former Stanford and Cal coach Mike Montgomery, former players Grant Hill and David Robinson, Notre Dame president Rev. John I. Jenkins, former White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, athletic directors and others.
Based on factual information relayed to me in the last couple of weeks by those who know plenty about college basketball recruiting — specifically within the AAU or grassroots basketball industry that includes shoe companies — this commission has some serious questions to resolve.
The seedy practices that go on take place at the expense of young players who are used as bargaining chips for greedy individuals consumed by money and their stature with college coaches.
Standing in front of this Commission on College Basketball, these questions would be asked to enlighten them, although the NCAA should already know by now that these type of infractions take place:
— How can a Division I basketball program offer an AAU coach a job and $20,000 to get a recruit on his team to commit? How can this same university supposedly offer a few other players from the AAU club a scholarship when no other college team at that level has offered? Is the AAU organization publicizing these supposed scholarship offers as a business practice to attract more players?
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— How can a young high school basketball player whose skills are not refined be offered a scholarship by a Division I program shortly after switching from one AAU program to another? Furthermore, when this player switched AAU organizations, he all of a sudden owned multiple pairs of basketball shoes and a substantial amount of new gear. How does that happen?
— How can a player with an impoverished background afford to take an unofficial visit of a Division I program far from home? These type of visits can not be funded by the college. Social media does not keep the unofficial visit a secret. Members of the AAU organization love to publicize the visit on social media to attract attention from other prospects and their parents.
— How can AAU directors be given $500 Visa gift cards from major college programs to use for gas to drive prospects to a campus for an unofficial visit?
— How can major college basketball programs give AAU directors access to their equipment rooms, allowing them to freely take items as if they were shopping at a sporting goods store? Imagine the excited reaction by the players of the AAU program and how impressed they become of the college team providing the goods.
This is just part of what is going on in the underbelly of college basketball recruiting. This story can go on and on.
The saddest aspect of all of this: Youths in their teens — many of them unassuming — are used as leverage with illegal practices the NCAA should have realized and aggressively cleaned up a long time ago.
Now, the NCAA, with the formation of this Commission on College Basketball, is all of a sudden tackling the issue of “individuals who break the trust on which college sports is based.”
“We must take decisive action,” Emmert said in the NCAA’s release. “This is not a time for half-measures or incremental change.”
Mr. Emmert, by allowing this mess to get this far, the very creation of this commission is an example of incremental change.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.