News breaks down NCAA hoops scandal
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.