Bock’s Score: College Basketball Is Back With All Its Problems

As the college basketball season gets underway, the NCAA is setting out to clean up a game which, shall we say, seems a little messy at the moment.

Good luck, guys.

Messy might be giving this sport the benefit of the doubt. The game has become downright dirty thanks to good, old fashioned greed as practiced by athletic footwear companies and the coaches and administrators who act as their highly paid surrogates.

This latest bit of unpleasantness began to unravel with charges filed by the FBI against a fistful of assistant coaches and others who were found to be operating a black market for recruits, steering players either to certain agents or schools in exchange for under the table payoffs.

Then came the other shoe falling – no pun intended—at Louisville where Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino was invited to seek work elsewhere, stripped of his job in the aftermath of the FBI investigation. When Pitino went down, he took Athletic Director Tom Jurich with him.

Now people know Pitino. He has a couple of NCAA championships in his resume. Jurich, however, has a lower profile. This, however, did not prevent the administrators at Louisville from paying him $5.3 million, about the same amount Pitino made. That’s an impressive stipend, considering that at Louisville, it far outstrips the budgets for the biology department ($3.3 million), the English department ($4 million), the history department ($2.4 million), and the math department ($3.5 million).

That is outrageous.

How does an athletics administrator or a coach make millions more than the entire budget for a handful of academic departments? There is something inherently wrong with that arrangement. Universities, remember, exist to educate young people and the ones pulling down the big salaries ought to be the educators doing that work, not athletic coaches and administrators.

All of this finally caught the attention of the NCAA and it created a blue ribbon commission to examine exactly what has been going on in the once pristine world of college sports. This investigation will begin with the quaint arrangement of self-policing by colleges and universities who break the rules and then are expected to turn themselves in. That might be a very good place to start.

The commission will also be examining college basketball’s cozy arrangement with the NBA, which bars players from turning pro until age 19 or one year out of high school. This is the “one and done’’ rule where players masquerade as students for one year and then bail out on higher education. Why require that pretense? It’s one of the questions the NCAA needs answered.

The FBI charges shook the NCAA into action. It was as if that body had no idea there were any such shenanigans going on but if that was the case then it was only because the bosses of college sports had their heads buried firmly in the sand or, in this case, the hardwood courts.

Shoe companies have been hovering over programs for years and this might be a good time to put an end to that practice. Instead of appointing a commission to investigate, the NCAA can skip that step and just come down hard on this activity.

One thing the NCAA commission won’t be considering is the often suggested proposal to pay the players. They are, after all, generating millions for their schools. Sorry, though, the NCAA won’t budge of this one. This is just another part of a system that is out of whack and sorely needs an overhaul. Maybe this is the time and the place to start.

About the Author

Hal Bock

Hal Bock is a contributor with NY Sports Day. He has covered sports for 40 years at The Associated Press including 30 World Series, 30 Super Bowls and 11 Olympics. He is the author of 14 books including most recently The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty and Banned Baseball's Blacklist of All-Stars and Also-Rans. He has written scores of magazine articles and served as Journalist In Residence at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus where he also served on the selection committee for the George Polk Awards.

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