An FBI investigation has rocked college basketball. Multiple NCAA players and school programs have been implicated in what Yahoo Sports describes as an “underground recruiting operation” that fuels the game. This includes some of the biggest programs such as Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State, and more.
The explosive Yahoo report last week ties these players and programs to NBA agent Andy Miller and his agency, ASM Sports. Yahoo uncovered documents that allegedly show cash advances, entertainment, and travel expenses paid for college prospects and their families.
Another story came out over the weekend from ESPN reported that Arizona head coach Sean Miller was caught on an FBI wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to freshman player DeAndre Ayton.
On Point guest host Jane Clayson sat down to discuss this with Sports Illustrated writer Jeremy Woo, Wall Street Journal sports columnist Jason Gay, and Ed O'Bannon, former NCAA, NBA and international player and author of "Court Justice: The Inside Story of My Battle Against the NCAA."
“Amateurism is a sham,” O’Bannon said. “It's old news, it's outdated. I think that the players deserve to get paid. They're bringing in multimillion dollars a year, up to billions of dollars, and contracts, television contracts and whatnot. They deserve a piece of the pie.”
Here are some more highlights from our show:
On who’s to blame
Jeremy Woo: “I think the one thing that has been sort of pleasantly refreshing about a lot of the coverage is that people are not heaping blame on the kids because it's not their fault. Ultimately, they are victims of this system it's been going on for a long time. Anytime you take away the element of currency, you create this black market, and it's a high functioning one.”
Jason Gay: “We had the same conversation a generation ago about the Olympics the idea that if we were to allow Olympians to collect appearance fees or God forbid have Nike sponsor them it would somehow make the Olympics less of a thing. That's clearly proven not to be true.
On the free market
Jason Gay: Not to sound like a sports columnist from The Wall Street Journal but this is what happens when you shut off a valve of a free market economy. You look at what has been happening with what the FBI has revealed here, what the stories and Yahoo and ESPN have detailed. These are basically parts of the market that have leaked out because these players have value and they are saying with this information what a lot of people been saying for a great many years: that college athletes and high revenue sports - college men's basketball, college football - have a great deal of value to is what is now a multibillion dollar system in which every party - the schools, the conferences, the NCAA, and the coaches of course - profit except for the athletes.
On the racial component:
Ed O’Bannon: I think there are racial undertones...When you come out of high school you can get an agent if you're going to go the baseball or hockey route...you can get check your draft status or you can even get drafted. If you don't like your draft status you can go back to college and it would actually be paid for. And in football and basketball the exact opposite is the case. You can't get an agent, if you do you are committed to the professional level and you can't come back to college, let alone get drafted. And they are the two money making sports. And I think the obvious racial tone in all of this is basketball and football primarily are black athletes.
Jeremy Woo, Sports Illustrated writer who covers basketball. (@jeremywoo)
Jason Gay, Wall Street Journal sports columnist. (@jasongay)
Ed O'Bannon, former NCAA, NBA and international player, author of "Court Justice: The Inside Story of My Battle Against the NCAA." (@ed_obannon)
From The Reading List:
Sports Illustrated: With Sean Miller and Arizona at the Center, College Hoops Scandal Hits New Level of Volatility — "You can craft your own Elite Eight out of this this whole mess. And who wouldn’t pay to watch? Selection Sunday is no longer the only major thing looming over college hoops, as Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, Texas, USC and of course, Arizona have been among the teams drawn into the fast-evolving specter of the FBI’s investigation into the corruption sewn across the sport."
Wall Street Journal: Secret Cash Isn't An NCAA Scandal. Amateurism Is. "College basketball is not on the level. Pull me to the fainting couch and cover my forehead with a cold towel!"
The Players Tribune: The NCAA Is Broken — "I hate to break it to you, but the purity of amateur sports — out the window."
This program aired on February 28, 2018.