Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich have been placed on administrative leave, this after the program was linked to an FBI investigation involving fraud and bribery in recruiting.
Sadly, for college basketball, this could just be the tip of the iceberg. Others programs – such as Arizona, Auburn, and USC – have also been accused of violations.
Just how many schools could be affected by this federal investigation?
“Well, right now, it’s eight. How much more it could be, it just depends on what the FBI’s going to do,” Yahoo! Sports columnist Dan Wetzel said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “This is why this case is so significant. This isn’t the NCAA, which may say, ‘We’re only going to look this far. We’re only going to look at this school. We’re only going to do this.’ The NCAA is going to operate on its absolute own timetable, do whatever it wants, as long as it wants, as short as it wants, and go wherever it wants. So as they continue the investigation, as they seize more information, as they talk to more people, it’s very easy to see eight become 16. It could stay at eight, but it could become 32. You don’t really know where it’s going to end. That’s what’s got so many people on edge. You’re just getting to the point where some of the ten people that have been fired, will any of them want to talk to the FBI? Will any of them look to make a plea deal or anything like that? How strong, really, are these cases against these guys? It may not really be as big as it looks, but someone might not want to risk any time going to trial.”
Either way, Wetzel is not at all surprised by the preliminary findings of the investigation.
“This is just literally how it works,” he said. “I say this not trying to sell this book because I don’t even think you can find it anymore, but Don Yaeger and I wrote a book 17 years ago called Sole Influence about shoe companies, agents, and college coaches working together and how they’re rigging the recruiting system. It’s the same thing – 17 years (ago) – and it wasn’t even new then. This is how it goes. You can’t get involved with a top-10, top-20 recruit in the country without also running into agents and financial planners – people who see the value of this kid going forward, his potential earnings, or a shoe company that wants to be involved.”
Adidas, for example, has a $160-million contract with the University of Louisville.
“They’re going to try to protect their investment,” Wetzel said. “Straight common sense says they’re not just going to sit back and go, ‘Boy, I hope Louisville is good. I hope we get our money back on that.’ If they have the ability to help their investment and protect it and make it work – which they do because colleges not only take their money, but they also let them run the recruiting camps. They let them run the tournaments. They empower these companies to actually have great influence over the players. So Adidas is going to say, ‘Yeah, we want them to go to our school. We’re paying for this school. We’re paying tons of money.’ So the stuff that’s going to happen isn’t a surprise at all. It’s common sense. That’s why so many people are nervous. Not every school, not every recruit, but there’s a lot of coaches (who think), ‘Hey, this is just how you got to operate.'”