College basketball had itself a weekend. Of course this is the time of year where college basketball is supposed to have itself a weekend and then have itself a month. But this weekend wasn’t that kind of weekend.
Sure, there were great moments like Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon intentionally missing a free throw so that he wouldn’t break the school’s consecutive made free throw record set by the legend Chris Street, but the real stories of the weekend involved who would be playing and who wouldn’t be playing, who would be coaching and who wouldn’t be coaching.
Yahoo’s report on Friday morning that named names and listed amounts was bad. But not nearly as bad as the follow-up report that included details like Arizona’s Sean Miller reportedly being caught in an FBI wiretap allegedly saying that he would pay $100,000 for DeAndre Ayton. Suffice it to say, that’s easily the biggest allegation so far in this unfolding case. One of the best coaches in the game, leading one of the premier programs in the sport, allegedly talking about paying six figures for a future lottery pick.
At this point, we’re not talking about the elephant in the room, we’re talking about an entire herd of elephants in every room. They’re smashing through the kitchen, busting through the walls, destroying the dining room, and wrecking the halls.
So, here’s a quick rundown of who’s in and who was out over the weekend:
Michigan State’s Miles Bridges – cleared to play by his school
Texas’s Eric Davis Jr – not cleared to play by his school
Alabama’s Collin Sexton – cleared to play by his school
Kentucky’s Kevin Knox – cleared to play by his school
Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton – cleared to play by his school
Arizona’s Sean Miller – not cleared to coach by his school
So Miller wasn’t able to coach, but Ayton was able to play and drop 28 and 18 on Oregon? That’s a little weird, isn’t it? But then again, this whole thing is more than a little weird. And a colossal mess. And it’s not going away anytime soon. At this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are leaks about different programs and players every week between now and the end of the season.
And yes, the truth is, a hundred grand would be a bargain for Ayton. When you watch him play, you can see why any NBA team would happily pay 50 times that to get Ayton right now. But paying even 10 bucks for him is obviously against NCAA rules. Which is why the rules have to change. This system is busted. Completely and utterly busted. They may have worked when college sports really were just student activities. When basketball players were still playing on peach baskets, teams took trains to games, and fans waved pennants in the stands. When the players really were student athletes and the term amateurism actually meant something.
But that was a helluva long time ago. Now it’s a multi-billion dollar industry. Millions are at stake for every school and every coach. Everyone is making money except for the people who actually make the money – the players. And when you’re worth millions, but get paid nothing, someone will find a way to pay you. The black market will emerge.
So the NCAA has to change. Go to an Olympic model, let athletes have endorsements, allow agents to come out of the shadows, any of it, all of it, but you can’t do none of it. Because what you’re doing right now isn’t working. And you can’t be surprised when this happens. Don’t even pretend to be surprised when the biggest coaches and the biggest programs get caught, because they’re the ones with the most at stake. And the programs, if there are any left, that are playing by the rules are getting hurt. The changes have to be real and they have to come soon. Before this whole thing falls apart.