Is it over for big-time college athletics?
That’s my first question from this latest scandal involving NCAA teams, one in which the FBI accuses multiple assistant coaches and others of taking part in a scheme to funnel players to programs and shoe companies.
Unless the FBI is making things up, one has to assume Arizona, Oklahoma State, USC and especially Louisville are in big trouble.
Don’t worry about scouting them this season for your NCAA tournament brackets. They ain’t gonna be eligible if their athletics directors are as proactive as they should be. Might as well start the punishment clock ticking now.
But all indications are this is just getting started, and having the feds looking into something is several magnitudes worse than being investigated by the NCAA itself because of the difference in resources and legal powers.
If everyone is on the same page, individuals can get away with straight up lying to the NCAA because it’s much harder for the organization to gather corroborating evidence and track down important witnesses who don’t work for a school.
Not so with the FBI, who can also threaten sources with far more serious consequences than not being able to work for a period of time if a witness doesn’t comply.
This might be a crazy year for college basketball by the time we find out who is still allowed to coach and who self-imposes postseason bans.
Beyond this, debates about athlete compensation continue, and there’s another huge lawsuit looming out there that threatens to essentially bring free agency to college sports.
This is not the first time I’ve thought college athletics was in trouble, though.
When Ohio State was embroiled in “TattooGate,” social media was still in the growth stage. That made me wonder if it was only a matter of time until everyone had their own scandal to deal with.
That’s because the rules haven’t gotten any less complicated, but getting caught only stands to get easier and easier thanks to everyone carrying around cameras and recording devices (phones) everywhere they go and the simplicity of uploading evidence to a social network or website at a moment’s notice.
But maybe I’m underestimating the general public.
Perhaps all this is already no secret and no one is all that bothered.
Sometimes we like to warn people all is not what it seems, and we in the media treat the average fan like Pollyannas ignoring us because they’d still prefer to find the fault in other programs and ignore the same in theirs. (Hey, it’s human nature.)
Maybe more people have already come to terms with the idea nothing is quite as it seems.
In that case, how important is keeping up the facade?
Maybe NCAA infractions don’t matter. Have they become nothing more than cool scars to compare at the bar now?
Let me know what you think.
I’ve also long assumed upping the ante as far as compensation really could turn off a large swathe of fans (whether you think it should or not is irrelevant if it does).
At least anecdotally, I can tell you the veneer of amateurism is important to some fans. Without it, college sports are just another minor league.
Why watch the minor leagues when you can just watch the top level of pros?
There’s still a market for the lower levels, but nothing compared to major college football or basketball.
Is the allure of watching players wearing Scarlet and Gray or Maize and Blue strong enough to make up the difference?
I suspect we’ll find out eventually.