Louisville basketball head coach Rick Pitino and athletic director fired Wednesday
If you’re an average college basketball fan, you probably like the sport for a few reasons: The atmosphere of a college basketball game is incredible, the players appear to ‘give more effort’ than the NBA, and the players play for free, therefore it is not about money—or is it?
On Tuesday, September 26, a story came out of college basketball that has sent ripples across the sport. The FBI (not NCAA) announced that ten people, including four Division-I assistant basketball coaches, were put under arrest as part of a three-year investigation. The investigation was for bribes and other corruption going on in the sport.
The average fan knows that players get recruited to go to colleges to play sports and represent their school. What the average fan does not know is all the illegal stuff that goes on behind the scenes of recruiting, and that is what this investigation uncovered.
The fraud and bribes that occurred here were large sums of money. Assistant coaches from numerous institutions would find ways to wire embezzle families hundreds of thousands of dollars if their kid decided to come play for their school. For example, it came out that Rick Pitino from Louisville gave a freshman basketball player on the team a vacuum once he got on campus for the first time. That vacuum had over $100,000 dollars cash stashed inside of it that was used as a bribe for that player to pick Louisville over other elite institutions.
Assistant coaches from Auburn, Louisville, Oklahoma State, Arizona, USC and Miami were all named in the investigation with Louisville going as far as to place their head coach and athletic director on paid leave; basically, setting up to fire them at a later date. This was less than shocking for Louisville. Even though their coach is an all-time legend, Rick Pitino is now under investigation for his second scandal in as many years, as last year it came out people close to the program were using prostitutes to have sex with potential recruits to lure them to come play for Louisville.
The mess doesn’t stop there. Major shoe companies are under investigation as well. As college sports fans know, every university is sponsored by either Nike, Adidas, Under Armour or some other major sports apparel company to have their jerseys made by them and have the players wear their sneakers. During the FBI investigation, they tapped phone calls. One particular phone call included a Louisville assistant coach and a representative from Adidas. The two men discussed how they were going to mask a $25,000 payment from Adidas to a father of a high school superstar that was bound to play big time college ball the following year. If the player committed to Louisville, they would send the money to him, bribing him to come play for their program. This is one of many phone calls of this nature that have taken place.
Even though there is a dark cloud hanging over college basketball right now, the sport is in good hands and will come out even stronger after this as cheating to get players should go down in the coming years. It’s impossible to know for sure, but will bribing recruits ever not be a thing in the NCAA? Right now, current events would suggest otherwise.