Cal, Stanford athletic directors say bribery scandal has no easy fix
College basketball’s latest bribery scandal has given the sport a black eye, but neither of the Bay Area’s Pac-12 athletic directors thinks the various remedies that have been suggested would work.
Ten men, including a top Adidas executive and four assistant coaches — two of them in the Pac-12 — were charged last month with using hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to influence athletes’ choice of schools, shoe sponsors and agents.
“This is a shame for college basketball and the impact is being felt throughout the sport,” Cal’s Mike Williams said. “We don’t know how far this reaches. … Only time will tell. My hope is that bringing these revelations to light will help prevent these types of activities in the future for the integrity of the game.”
Stanford’s Bernard Muir, a former Brown basketball player, indicated that he believed the scandal is more limited in scope than many media reports have suggested.
“It remains to be seen how deep this goes,” he said. “It’s certainly unfortunate to the overall college basketball experience, but my hope is we’ll get rid of poor actors and continue to develop and enhance the game, provide the proper oversight to make sure people are doing the right thing.”
On Wednesday, the NCAA announced the formation of a 14-person committee to study the inner workings of college basketball. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a former Stanford provost, will lead the committee. Former Stanford and Cal head coach Mike Montgomery is a committee member.
Federal prosecutors said at least three top recruits were promised payments of as much as $150,000, using money supplied by Adidas, to attend schools sponsored by the athletic-shoe company. According to the Associated Press, court papers contained enough details to identify the schools as Louisville and Miami.
Arizona assistant coach Emanuel Richardson was released on $50,000 bond after appearing in court in Tucson. He is alleged to have accepted $20,000 in bribes and used money to influence at least one player to commit to Arizona.
He is also accused of taking money to persuade two players to choose certain business managers. Richardson has been suspended and relieved of duties.
USC assistant coach Tony Bland is accused of accepting $13,000 to help steer two players to certain business representatives. He appeared in federal court in Tampa, Fla., on Sept. 26 and was placed on administrative leave by USC. The school said it appointed former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh to conduct an internal investigation.
Cal has a 10-year athletic apparel deal with Under Armour that is worth more than $86 million in cash and product, according to school officials. Muir would not disclose the terms of Stanford’s deal with Nike. Because such deals have become so tainted at other schools, it has been suggested that the NCAA should void all such agreements.
Muir wondered about the legality of voiding such deals across the country. He added that it would be very costly to Stanford and other schools. “That relationship is strong for us,” he said. “It’s been very beneficial to outfit all our 900 student-athletes.”
All the money Stanford receives from Nike goes directly to outfitting the student-athletes, he said. “If a ban were put in, it would be to the overall detriment of the student-athlete experience,” he said.
Williams didn’t think that a blanket voiding of apparel deals would be feasible. The Under Armour agreement “helps us in meaningful ways far beyond basketball,” he said. His department has well publicized financial problems. “We need a diverse revenue stream, and an apparel contract is a big part of that,” he said.
Another suggestion is to require basketball players to stay in college at least two years. It’s the NBA that decided not to take college players unless they stayed in school at least a year — the one-and-done rule. But some critics say the NCAA should put more pressure on the NBA to enact a two-andthrough rule or maybe even a three-and-free rule.
“It would be great if we could adopt a rule similar” to Major League Baseball’s, Muir said, “where you either decide out of high school that you want to start your professional career or, if you come to college, you would spend three years here before you got drafted. That would be ideal for college basketball.”
Williams said, “At Cal, like other universities, we don’t restrict other students from pursuing their careers before they finish their requirements.”
To pay players would require spending more than $40 million just on tuition for a program with 900 athletes because limiting it to men’s basketball would never pass legal muster.
Muir opposes the idea for philosophical reasons as well.
“First and foremost, we are providing an education for our young people, and we’re also providing them an opportunity to compete at the highest level,” he said. “I don’t see many (schools) supporting that notion.”
So what can schools and the NCAA do to try to prevent under-the-table payments to players and shoe-company bribes to coaches?
“I don’t think anyone has all the answers at this point,” Williams said, “but we owe it as a member of the NCAA to take a thorough look. And we owe it to our student-athletes not to have a sport with a hint of scandal.”