KU coach Bill Self opens up on pressure surrounding recruiting, college basketball
In discussing the “tough week” that hammered college basketball from nearly all angles this week, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self on Thursday night focused mostly on what could be done to fix a culture that has allowed shoe companies, third parties and the high-stakes world of recruiting to take control of the sport.
But although Self admitted that many of the ideas he had either thought of or heard about — ideas that, on the surface, might make the game better — he also acknowledged that finding the solution likely would be a long and difficult process.
It remains to be seen just how deep the ongoing FBI investigation will go and how many more schools, coaches and athletes will find themselves in serious trouble, but there is no doubting that every aspect of the college game is suddenly under heavy scrutiny and facing dangerous days ahead.
That fact only figures to add to the already existing pressure that surrounds the game. And Self on Thursday night opened up about the numerous layers of pressure that exist within college basketball.
“The money is what’s driven the pressure,” he said. “There’s pressure on the NCAA, when they’ve got a how-many-billion-dollar industry? There’s pressure on the schools to hire the right guys and pay them a high salary that gives them the best chance to (win). And then there’s pressure from the alumni that expect certain things, and in order to make bills meet you jack up the ticket prices, so now there’s pressure on coaches even from alums that say, ‘You’re not giving us the product that we’re paying for.’
“And then there’s pressure on the kids because if they don’t go to the league after their sophomore year, they’re considered failures. There’s pressure on everybody. And I do think it’s more magnified now and it probably is more than it has been because of all the money that’s involved in our industry.”
Most, if not all, of that pressure has always existed in the world of college athletics, but Self said he thought the advancement of social media has taken it to new levels year after year.
“Coaches don’t win games, players do,” he said. “And in order to win you need to have as good of guys or better guys than the people you’re competing against. That’s common sense. So I’ve always thought there was pressure in recruiting. But I do think that the attention has been elevated so much through social media. Instead of getting on the message boards, you could almost call it rumor boards, too. There’s things that are said all the time and now you have to defend yourself all the time. And it’s everybody that has to do this.”
One of the biggest sources of pressure, according to Self, is the frustration that comes from not knowing exactly what is going on with every prospect a program recruits. Sure, coaches are able to keep in touch with the players on a regular basis, and, yeah, they meet the parents and AAU coaches and, occasionally, even a young man’s extended family. But Self said sometimes that is not enough.
“You have too many third parties involved,” he said.
And the only way to eliminate that altogether, or at least lessen their influence, is to overhaul the entire system.
“You’re also talking about where it’s totally legal for agents or financial planners or whatever to go meet with a 15-year-old and his family or a 16-year-old and his family,” Self said. “And you think that everybody that is meeting with them are 100 percent ethical and above board? There’s a lot of stuff. And that’s why there needs to be reform. There’s no question about that. I just don’t know if anybody’s come up with a perfect scenario to do that.
“Some people say just pay players and we won’t have this issue. I think that could open up a whole other deal. So there’s some serious things that have to be discussed and decisions made to allow our sport to move on in a favorable way.”
More news and nuggets from a crazy week in college basketball
- Kansas Athletics monitoring charges against Adidas exec; feds have not contacted KU
- Tale of the Tait: KU's shoe deal with Adidas is company's largest total dollar deal, ranks fourth in nation
- White-collar crime attorney says high-profile coaches now at risk in fast-moving college basketball probe
- AUDIO: Matt Tait joins 1320 KLWN's Rock Chalk Sports Talk to discuss FBI investigation into college basketball recruiting practices
- NCAA basketball coaches, Adidas executive among 10 charged in bribe scheme