Kentucky Wildcats podcast: Dan Wetzel says ‘worst is yet to come’ with FBI, college basketball scandal

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Buckle up, college basketball. This thing ain’t over, and if Dan Wetzel is right, the worst is yet to come.

Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports columnist and co-author of the 2000 book “Sole Influence: Basketball, Corporate Greed, and the Corruption of America’s Youth,” joined SEC Country’s Kentucky podcast Tuesday to sift through the scandal rocking college hoops. He made a prediction that should be terrifying to fans of the sport’s biggest programs.

Will the FBI’s ongoing investigation into corruption involving shoe companies, agents, coaches and recruits, which has already dealt blows to the likes of Louisville, Arizona and USC, eventually catch one of basketball’s bluebloods — Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, North Carolina or UCLA?

“I would say at least one, yeah, absolutely,” Wetzel said. “At least one gets snared, and depending on how aggressive the FBI is, it could be all five. I don’t put this thing past anyone, and part of that is what we talked about earlier: Even if you’re trying your best, the corruption is just too big. The money is too big. Certainly, if you look at the waters that some are swimming in regularly, you would put at least one in — and maybe more.”

For now, Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino and three-time national champion Louisville are the biggest fish caught in the FBI’s net, but Wetzel said rival fans should not celebrate too hard. His answer to the big question in this state — Is the University of Kentucky in the clear? — won’t make Big Blue Nation feel better.

“No, nobody can” feel certain, he said. “You could have the most honest and pious and crack-the-whip guy who is your head coach — whoever in the history of college athletics would never do anything [wrong] — and if you look at the way these scandals are, an agent is going to an assistant coach and saying, ‘Hey, why don’t I give you …’

“Like Chuck Person [Auburn assistant who was arrested as part of the FBI investigation], ‘Let me give you an extra grand a month and you just steer the players.’ Do I think Chuck Person is calling Bruce Pearl up and going, ‘Hey, guess what? I’m getting an extra grand a month from this agent!’ Of course he’s not telling him that. Now, I don’t know what Bruce Pearl knows, doesn’t know. I don’t know what’s going on at Auburn for sure. But this is a side deal.

“Now, that could be your assistant coach, [but] that could be your student manager. That could be another kid on campus. That could be another player on the team. That could be anybody who is saying, ‘You know what? I could use a grand a month.’ … When you’re talking about individual corruption, do you trust anybody on the face of the earth to say, ‘Everybody in my organization — not one person would ever take that money’? You’d be stupid to believe that. I don’t care who your head coach is.”

Wetzel points to professions known for integrity — police officers, FBI agents, clergy, Boy Scout leaders, military members — that have been hit by corruption scandals of their own.

“The best people in our country. Every organization has got it. So it’s just ridiculous to say, ‘Well, we’re in the clear. Don’t worry about it. We would never do that,’ ” Wetzel said. “Of course you would. You’ve got humans.”

Kentucky’s other biggest concern: It attracts the kind of elite players shoe companies, agents and financial advisors want to influence the most. Calipari has signed a staggering 37 5-star recruits, per the 247Sports composite, since arriving in Lexington in 2009.

“If you’re recruiting a top-10 player, top-20 player, let’s say you’re Kentucky, you’re John Calipari, you go and show up and you’re going to recruit this kid. You’re pretty sure that Mike Krzyzewski is going to recruit him, too, and Roy Williams and Bill Self and Tom Izzo,” Wetzel said. “And if you showed up and none of those guys were there — if nobody else was recruiting a player but you were — you would be stunned, right? You would be equally stunned if five agents weren’t also recruiting that player. And five financial planners. And both shoe companies. Because that kid has value to you [and] he has value to all those people also.

“So you know for a fact every single kid Kentucky has recruited has had those guys around him. And if they want to get paid, they will get paid. If anybody around them wants to get paid, they will get paid. Doesn’t mean it did happen, but you run the numbers and eventually … So maybe a kid and his family said, ‘Nope, no thank you, we’re going to do this completely by the book,’ and the next one did, and the next one did. Well, how many down the line are going to run that gauntlet? That’s a lot of bullets [to dodge].”

Be sure to listen to the full podcast, more than half an hour of Wetzel waxing poetic on the scandal, the farce of amateurism, his possible fix for college athletics and some jokes at Pitino’s expense.

The post Kentucky Wildcats podcast: Dan Wetzel says ‘worst is yet to come’ with FBI, college basketball scandal appeared first on SEC Country.

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