AIRHEADS

News breaks down NCAA hoops scan­dal

New York Daily News - - SPORTS - BY EVAN GROSS­MAN

The NCAA bas­ket­ball scan­dal is a com­pli­cated mess. Here are all the burn­ing ques­tions and what you need to know:

IS RICK PITINO GO­ING TO JAIL?

Short an­swer is prob­a­bly not, in fact, Richard Roth, a trial at­tor­ney at the Roth Law Firm, said if the FBI had any­thing at all on Pitino, the feds would have men­tioned his name in the ex­plo­sive in­ves­ti­ga­tion into col­lege bas­ket­ball bribery and cor­rup­tion an­nounced this week.

“Rick Pitino is a big name,” Roth told the Daily News. “My guess is they looked very hard at him. But if they had some­thing on him al­ready, they would have nailed him.”

In­stead, Pitino’s name is not men­tioned in the in­dict­ment. Louisville is not men­tioned by name ei­ther, yet Pitino is out of a job, it seems. The coach was placed on in­def­i­nite, un­paid leave this week amid stun­ning al­le­ga­tions that sev­eral NCAA bas­ket­ball teams helped to fun­nel money from sneaker com­pa­nies and pro­fes­sion­als like fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sors to re­cruits and their fam­i­lies.

One of the in­dict­ments ref­er­ences a “Coach-2,” who ABC and CBS have iden­ti­fied as Pitino, but again, if the feds had any­thing on the two-time NCAA cham­pion, they would have loved to have hauled in Pitino, too.

WHAT LAWS DO THE FBI SAY WERE BRO­KEN HERE?

There are two sets of charges. In the first, the gov­ern­ment al­leges that as­sis­tant coaches at Ari­zona, Auburn, Ok­la­homa State and USC took bribes to di­rect their play­ers to cer­tain sports agents. That’s a crime. In the sec­ond, the FBI says James Gatto, an Adi­das ex­ec­u­tive, sent “six-fig­ure” pay­ments to re­cruits in ex­change for them com­mit­ting to schools af­fil­i­ated with the brand. That’s also il­le­gal.

Re­ally, what’s the big deal? Did any­one get hurt? Bribery of any kind is il­le­gal. To pay un­der-the-ta­ble money in any busi­ness, with­out dis­clos­ing it, is a crime.

IS THIS A CRIM­I­NAL IS­SUE, OR AN ETH­I­CAL IN­FRAC­TION?

Col­lege bas­ket­ball fans have pre­sumed this kind of thing has been go­ing on for years, and while giv­ing ama­teur play­ers fi­nan­cial in­cen­tive for com­ing to a school is bad ethics, it is also a crime.

“The the­ory is it es­sen­tially de­stroys free com­merce,” Roth said. “It’s es­sen­tially an il­le­gal pay­ment to a fam­ily mem­ber be­fore they sign a con­tract. The same rea­son why you can’t give a kick­back for send­ing some­one in a cer­tain di­rec­tion, for ex­am­ple in the real es­tate busi­ness. You can’t say to a bro­ker if they use a cer­tain lawyer, you’ll pay them X num­ber of dol­lars un­der the ta­ble. It’s lit­er­ally deemed ‘un­der the ta­ble’ money. It’s fraud. Bribery. Cor­rup­tion. It’s not al­low­able. Ev­ery­thing has to be trans­par­ent and above-board.”

HOW DID THE PROBE START?

Pre­sum­ably, Marty Blazer, a crooked fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sor ac­cused of run­ning a Ponzi­like scheme that used clients’ money to in­vest in movies, co­op­er­ated with the feds and turned them on to the col­lege bas­ket­ball racket.

WHAT COACHES WERE NAMED IN THE IN­DICT­MENT?

Chuck Per­son (Auburn), Emanuel Richard­son (Ari­zona), Lamont Evans (Ok­la­homa State) and Tony Bland (USC). Each is charged with a series of bribery and fraud charges and face a max­i­mum of 80 years in prison.

HAVE THEY BEEN PUN­ISHED YET?

Auburn sus­pended Per­son with­out pay, Ok­la­homa State sus­pended Evans with pay, Ari­zona sus­pended Richard­son and re­lieved him of all du­ties, and USC placed Bland on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave.

DOES IT MAT­TER THAT SOME OF THESE SCHOOLS ARE PUB­LIC?

It does not ap­pear that money was com­ing from schools or gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tions. But as state em­ploy­ees, as­sis­tant coaches may have been go­ing out­side of their em­ploy­ers to earn money and could be sub­ject to ter­mi­na­tion. If they were mak­ing money on the side and not re­port­ing it, that may also be an­other is­sue.

“If these em­ploy­ees are get­ting cash un­der the ta­ble, it’s a school is­sue, it’s an NCAA is­sue, and it’s the def­i­ni­tion of bribery,” Roth said. “You’re pay­ing some­one to in­flu­ence their de­ci­sions in­de­pen­dent of ob­jec­tive fac­tors, which means they’re be­ing bribed.”

WHERE DOES THE NCAA STAND ON THIS?

The FBI in­formed the NCAA of its in­ves­ti­ga­tion Tues­day when they let the rest of the world know about it. In many ways, the FBI is do­ing the NCAA’s job in clean­ing up col­lege hoops.

“The na­ture of the charges brought by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment are deeply dis­turb­ing,” NCAA pres­i­dent Mark Em­mert said in a state­ment. “We have no tol­er­ance what­so­ever for this al­leged be­hav­ior. Coaches hold a unique po­si­tion of trust with stu­dent-ath­letes and their fam­i­lies, and these bribery al­le­ga­tions, if true, sug­gest an ex­tra­or­di­nary and de­spi­ca­ble breach of that trust.”

AREN’T BRIBES AND IN­FLU­ENCE PART OF THE GAME OF BIG-TIME COL­LEGE ATH­LET­ICS OR ANY BUSI­NESS FOR THAT MAT­TER?

“Some peo­ple say it’s the way of the world,” Roth said. “It re­ally isn’t way of the world. Could you imag­ine if it was so crazy that ev­ery de­ci­sion is mo­ti­vated not by what’s in the best in­ter­ests of these kids, but what’s in the best in­ter­est of the per­son telling them what to do?”

The other side of it seems less of a crime and more like get­ting paid for your ser­vices. If a player’s fam­ily gets money to play at a cer­tain school from a shoe com­pany af­fil­i­ated with that school, what’s the crime in that?

“That’s il­le­gal,” Roth said. “You have to be trans­par­ent. A school can’t use money to bribe them to come to school. Nor can Adi­das use money to pay them to sign with Adi­das.”

WHAT HAP­PENS NOW? WHAT HAP­PENS TO THE PEO­PLE WHO WERE AR­RESTED THIS WEEK?

“My gut says they wanted a big fish, Pitino, but they didn’t have enough on him,” Roth said. “But as­sis­tant coaches are pretty big fish, too, at these schools. They could do jail time. They’re cer­tainly go­ing to lose their jobs. They’re cer­tainly go­ing to be out­casts. They’re go­ing to be looked at as con­victed felons if they lose and it’s very hard to get back into so­ci­ety.”

WILL ANY­ONE GO TO PRISON?

Maybe. “They’re go­ing to lose their jobs,” Roth said. “They could do time. Some are worse than oth­ers. It’s a func­tion of how per­va­sive they were in the scheme. Did they re­cruit or in­flu­ence one player or 20 play­ers? How much money is in­volved in it? How per­va­sive the scheme is, how much money was in­volved, how many peo­ple were in­volved, how long did it last?

FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion into NCAA bribery al­le­ga­tions has snared nu­mer­ous big time pro­grams and Rick Pitino from Louisville.

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