Of course elite recruits got paid to play basketball for the Kansas Jayhawks.
That's just the way it goes at the high end of the college game. Sports apparel companies and overeager player agents pour big money into the sport.
Kids are greased up long before they reach the college game, given the high level of commerce at the grass roots basketball level. Since the NBA won't let top prospects turn pro right out of high school, for now, those players and their people take their cut of the action under the table.
Anybody who pretends otherwise is either a moron or a delusional fool.
The Feds went after college basketball corruption because, apparently, all other crimes in our country were solved. They unearthed a treasure trove of evidence proving the obvious. Wiretapped conversations offered an illuminating glimpse of the day-in, day-out business transactions in the sport.
So KU coach Bill Self is on the spot with his program officially facing serious NCAA allegations. Auburn coach Bruce Pearl, LSU coach Will Wade and Arizona coach Sean Miller are among those under duress these days.
Here's how you need to look at this:
- The schools and coaches will deny everything and dare the NCAA to prove its case. Why should they cooperate? You saw where that got Missouri in its tutoring "scandal." Lawyer up and let's go!
- NCAA investigators seldom catch serious wrongdoing. These people couldn't catch the flu. They aren't stupid, they just lack subpoena power. Unless you can make coaches testify under oath — facing prison terms if they lie — then you get nowhere.
- Even if these schools and coaches are forced to suffer a harder-than-usual wrist slap, the industry will collectively shrug because, hey, everybody cheats at the high end. College basketball is a billion-dollar industry and the NCAA's "student-athlete" ideals are laughable in the face of commercial reality.
- The industry will grind on as if nothing happened. Maybe some coaches get fired, maybe not — but the money will keep flowing. The only way to change the dynamic is to offer teenage basketball players the same pro opportunities that baseball and hockey players get.
Our old friend Vahe Gregorian summed up the state of things for the Kansas City Star:
If you love college basketball, chances are you’ve learned to compartmentalize the essential conflicts and dilemmas the modern game presents:
The often shadowy path that leads many celebrated players to end up with the blue-blood programs year after year; the fact that fraudulent dynamic smears the integrity of competition … and how it all illuminates NCAA rules that prevent immensely talented players, often in need, who make the game so popular from benefiting financially in any purely above-board way.
The emperor wearing no clothes … sitting on top of the elephant in the room … hidden in plain view … often in cahoots with athletic shoe companies, as first documented nearly 20 years ago in the book “Sole Influence.”
If you were suspending your disbelief, the Adidas college basketball corruption trial last year meant you had to turn to sheer denial as the Teflon melted away — including through FBI wiretaps and allegations directed at the Kansas program. Testimony in one trial linked payments on behalf of Adidas to two Kansas basketball recruits.
That’s why it was ominous for KU when an NCAA official last summer said six schools connected with the scandal would receive notices of Level 1 violations — the consequences of which can include postseason bans, loss of scholarships, and suspensions for coaches.
Even if Self has to accept an NCAA-mandated vacation, he should come back, vow to keep a closer watch on things and try to get through his first news conference back at work without winking.
KICKING DIRT ON THE CUBS
Here is what folks wrote about the second consecutive Chicago Cubs collapse:
Bob Nightengale, USA Today: "It happened once again. Only this one was more painful. Another September collapse for the Chicago Cubs. A year ago, they blew a five-game lead in September, lost Game 163 to the Milwaukee Brewers to lose the NL Central and 24 hours later, dropped the wild-card game against the Colorado Rockies. This time, they won’t even get to October for the first time since 2014. It may be the official first day of fall, but winter has already arrived in Chicago. So break out the heavy coats, long underwear and gloves, and sit back, because the Cubs are about to make changes. Lots and lots of changes. Joe Maddon, who had a sensational five-year run in Chicago, will be gone, with a few of the coaches headed out of the door. The entire team, outside of shortstop Javy Baez, catcher Willson Contreras and starter Kyle Hendricks, could be placed on the trade block."
Jon Tayler, SI.com: "It’s safe to say, barring a miracle, October won’t feature a trip to Wrigley Field for the first time in five years. This late September flameout continues what’s been a long and slippery slide for the Cubs since winning it all. Each season has provided diminishing returns: a loss in the NLCS to the Dodgers in '17, a loss to the Rockies in the wild-card last year (after gagging away the division on the season’s final day to Milwaukee, too). This year’s Cubs won’t even get the opportunity to be part of a network’s postseason montage — nan embarrassing outcome for a franchise that was poised to rule over the sport for half a decade. At least, that’s what was easy to imagine, given the young stars celebrating on the field in Cleveland as they closed out Game 7. In Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, Kyle Schwarber, Willson Contreras and Addison Russell, the Cubs’ player development machine was churning out success at nearly every position. Add to that a capable rotation fronted by Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks, a well-liked manager in Joe Maddon and a savvy front office, and Chicago seemingly had all the ingredients for a long run atop baseball. But while Rizzo, Bryant and Baez have continued to shine and thrive, the rest of the Cubs’ roster now feels oddly patchwork and thin for how rich and smart everyone in charge is. The same farm system that produced that bevy of All-Stars has stalled out."
Ray Ratto, Deadspin: "Kris Bryant getting hurt on Sunday trying to foil a double play? Cubs. Six straight losses in the 24th week of a 25-week season? Cubs. Going from a wild-card spot to four games out, and about to be passed by the Mets, who are staying afloat financially only because they get a royalty every time someone says the word 'dysfunctional?' Oh so very Cubs. And yet the ‘16 World Series ruined all of it. The nearly citywide catharsis that lit up the skies in 2016 allows Cubs fans to say, 'Well, we got that one at least. Now all my dead relatives can die happy.' It also prevents them from fully absorbing the 2019 flameout with the proper reverence Cubs fans used to be able to supply on command, especially to people who didn’t want to hear about it."
"I know a lot of people can say disappointed because I wasn’t the .340, .350 hitter that I was in St. Louis. I think 85 percent of Major League players wish they were driving in 100 runs, hitting 30 homers and hit .260, .280, whatever it is. The years I didn’t drive in 100 runs, those are the years I had to have surgery. It cut my season short. Sometimes, I think we are spoiled. But we are human. (People) think we are superheroes, that we are never going to struggle in the game. That’s wrong. You are going to struggle in this game. As you get older, you are not going to put up the numbers that you put up. I think, for me, I always stay positive, stay focused and try to block any negative things that I hear."