The FBI & College Basketball: An ugly marriage.

 

With the news of the FBI’s investigations, and it’s findings from those investigations breaking recently, we are about to enter the 2017-2018 college basketball season with somewhat of a dark cloud hovering above.
I’m not sure there are really any basketball purists that were necessarily shocked that there were some shady things taking place somewhere behind the scenes, but to the extent in which we now know they were, at least up to this point, I’m sure some jaws dropped.

I’m a sports fan…period.  Meaning, I can watch just about any sport, any time.  Professionally, the Oakland Raiders of the NFL, and the Chicago Cubs of MLB, are my teams of choice.  I also like the NBA, but I don’t really follow one particular team.  No, my real passion lies in college sports, particularly college basketball, and mainly my Indiana Hoosiers.  So, although I wasn’t one left with my jaw dropped when the news broke, I was saddened…especially at first.

I say at first because I believe anything that helps expose the wrongdoings that have lessened the amateurism of college athletics is a good thing going forward.  I’m old enough, and not so naive that I didn’t know, or think, that as with just about everything else, there will always be someone out there that is willing to skirt, bend, or break the rules.  The findings of this investigation could very well scare the “skirters” and the “benders” into stopping their ridiculousness.  Or in the very least, make them think a little more about their actions and the impact it has on the kids, the universities, and the game itself.

AAU basketball wasn’t always on the national scene, but rather more state oriented.  The players from area high schools played teams made up of the same, from other areas.  Over time this grew to being mainly the best players from areas forming teams to play the best players from other areas.  That in turn grew into super teams from states, as well as players from all over the country joining forces at nationally played tournaments.  The shoe companies then put their stamp on these tournaments and it soon became the norm for high school kids to play year round, all over the country against the best of the best.

Robert Montgomery “Bobby” Knight, long ago warned this would, or could, ruin college basketball.  He was cast off as a bitter old man.  But here we are right in the middle of every college basketball fans perfect time of year, with this cloud.  I say perfect time of year because it’s been a long wait since last season ended in April.  But now we have the MLB playoffs going on, both the NFL and NCAA football seasons well under way, the NBA preseason kicking off, and college basketball literally right around corner.

The fact that some shoe company executives were involved in this is an example of how cutthroat recruiting has become.  It’s more and more about the almighty dollar all of the time.  Gone are the days of a famed college basketball coach walking into an small overcrowded high school gym on a cold December Friday night to watch the local hot shot high school senior.  Smaller high school have closed and consolidated together, thus making larger schools.

Not that coaches don’t still attend these high school games sometimes, but most visits to these schools are to watch an open practice that has been predetermined and communicated via text or phone call.  No, now most coaches only have to attend one of these tournaments to see all of the best players, plus a few sleepers that have flown under the radar, or were late bloomers and have taken their games to a whole new level.
Attend one these major AAU tournaments one time and you will not only see the best of the best high school players from around the country going head to head.  They will playing on multiple courts in most cases, but sometimes the games are spread out at other locations in a town, so you may have to take a short walk or ride to get there.  But you will also see the who’s who of college basketball coaches lining the baselines, as well as the first couple of rows of bleachers.  of course you’ll also see the shady, behind the scenes guys, that are helping to ruin this great game and it’s purity.  The only difference is, you won’t know who they are, and you won’t know which of the “who’s who” are in cahoots with them.

These coaches know which of theses kids they want to come play for them long before these tournaments, and in most cases they’ve already extended scholarship offers.  But kids today have to feel wanted.  They pay very close attention to which coach is there at their games.  If a coach isn’t at every game they play, they sometimes don’t feel like a priority.  It’s a coaches job to win games…period.  And when you’re talking about the millions they’re paid to do that, and the billion dollar industry that the NCAA is, there will be some looking for that competitive edge.  Especially if the wins haven’t been piling up and they feel like they are on the proverbial hot seat.

Although the game has a black eye, the start of the season has a black cloud hovering right now, I still can’t wait for it to start, and even though I’m pretty sure there will be even more names/teams to come out from this ongoing investigation, I for one can’t wait for it to start.