Hot Reads: A Guide to College Basketball's Big Scandal
Photo Credit: Justin Jackson - USA TODAY Sports

Hot Reads: A Guide to College Basketball’s Big Scandal

September 27, 2017

So college basketball changed yesterday. Or at least it will change, presumably. Any time the FBI makes high-profile arrests of assistant basketball coaches, an Adidas executive and various other agents, advisors and prep hoops parasites you’re dealing with something different. These aren’t NCAA infractions we’re talking about here, but criminal investigations that have already involved wire taps, video surveillance and undercover agents.

When the FBI revealed its official complaints (linked above), I immediately went to my book shelf. For some reason – well, actually by design – I still have a mass-market paperback copy of “Raw Recruits,” the 1991 expose by Sports Illustrated writers Alexander Wolff and Armen Keteyian. It essentially described most of what we learned yesterday, but did it 25 years ago. I was 12 when I read it the first time so it’s probably time for a re-read, but the scary pull quotes at the front of the book tell you what you need to know.

“It’s a cesspool, and we start the process,” said Sonny Vacaro, the man generally credited with providing shoe companies entry into the high-school basketball ranks.

“Sometimes I wonder what dishonesty is,” said John Thompson, then Georgetown’s revered head coach. “Is it dishonest for a kid to be paid . . . or is it just agains the rules?”

This one, from L.A. summer league coach Pat Barrett, was particularly poignant: “All hands are out. A pair of Nikes and a sweat suit to a sixth-grader is like $100,000 to a college kid.”

I guess shoes and gear don’t carry as much weight today because according to the investigation one prospective player received $100,000 to commit to Louisville. There’s a lot to sift through with this one, but it’s worth diving in. Read the actual complaints. Read “Raw Recruits” when you get time. But for now, start with these, some of the best stories on this topic from yesterday:

>>The involvement of Adidas employees in this scandal gave the story a potential local link. Nebraska just signed a big new sponsorship deal with the company in August, but university officials say the school has not been contacted by investigators.

>>Louisville has, however. Head coach Rick Pitino provided the following statement.

>>Local Louisville reporter Eric Crawford writes that he thinks this latest scandal will be the end for Pitino and Louisville AD Tom Jurich. Yahoo’s Pat Forde writes that the program deserves the death penalty if the allegations are true.

>>Book Richardson, an Arizona assistant, was one of those arrested yesterday. Local columnist Bruce Pascoe looks at the potential ramifications for the Wildcats.

>>If you missed the New York District Attorney’s press conference, you can watch the whole thing here. I watched it yesterday and they appear ready to play hardball.

>>Dan Wetzel of Yahoo spoke to a former AAU coach who was involved in a similar scandal 17 years ago and went to prison for three years rather than cooperate with the investigation.

>>Mark Titus, a former Ohio State basketball player, is hopeful that these allegations can start to clean up the sport.

>>Here’s a good breakdown of everything from ESPN.

I could really go on linking forever, but that’s probably enough scandal to get you started on a Wednesday.

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