Saturday, September 30, 2017


Tom Keegan: Scandal can’t bring down college basketball

Kansas basketball recruit Zion Williamson waves to the crowd after they started chanting his name during the 33rd-annual Late Night in the Phog on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas basketball recruit Zion Williamson waves to the crowd after they started chanting his name during the 33rd-annual Late Night in the Phog on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.


The heat closed in on the Kansas basketball program Saturday night and made everyone sweat.

No, not the FBI. Not that kind of heat. Rather, the sort that makes Allen Fieldhouse stuffy on a warm September night.

As for evidence of the FBI rocking the college basketball world with an investigation into the always-suspicious relationship involving apparel companies, high school basketball superstars and college coaches, it was nowhere to be found at Late Night, which played out as it always does.

The place was packed, with every move and word scripted for the benefit of recruits, the most famous of whom experienced his first connection with Kansas basketball fans.

“We want Zion! We want Zion!” they chanted loudly, repeatedly, passionately.

Sometimes recruits are too cool to show they appreciate the love. Not this recruit. Zion Williamson, wearing a shiny silver crucifix, broke into a huge smile and raised a finger to thank the crowd for the reception.

A 6-foot-7, 230-pound forward from Spartanburg, S.C., Williamson is ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2018 by some outlets now that Marvin Bagley reclassified up a year and signed with Duke.

Elsewhere, Louisville recruits have re-entered the market in the wake of Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino’s forced exit.

And the feds have indicated the investigation doesn’t end with Louisville, Arizona, Auburn, Oklahoma State and Southern Cal. No telling what other schools will be shamed, what other coaches arrested and/or fired.

Even if it goes much deeper and slays many more coaching careers, any notion that the scandal will bring down college basketball completely misses why fans consume the sport.

They certainly don’t watch because they think the sport’s relationship with shoe companies is pure or because coaches follow all the rules. They watch it because it’s entertaining, particularly so in March, and because it pits their school against somebody else’s favorite team. None of that will change.

The average college basketball customer's reaction to the scandal can be summed up thusly: “I hope my school’s coaches don’t cheat. If they do, I hope they don’t get caught. I’m glad other schools get caught if they cheat because then maybe my school can pick up one of their recruits and make my team better.”

No matter how far the wiretaps and record checks extend, college basketball quickly will recover. After all, Penn State football is ranked fourth in the nation just six years after the most repugnant scandal in sports history.

More news and notes from Kansas vs. West Virginia


Suzi Marshall 5 years, 2 months ago

Totally agree with everything you say, EXCEPT the business about not wanting to get caught if my school, KU, cheated. That would be a crusher beyond recovery if Self and the KU staff got busted for cheating. I'm really proud of the way Self and the assistants run the program, with all their charitable giving (Assist Foundation) and academic record for our players. I hope the FBI puts all the scum bags like Petrino in prison, and sports records properly reflect upon the cheating down by hyped icons like Wooden (Sam Gilbert) and Smith (years of institutionalized academic fraud).

Although I hope cheaters get busted and sent to jail, I’m 100% on the side of the players, whose interest is solely to make some money playing basketball. If the NCAA wants to limit student athletes to tuition, room & board, plus a small stipend….that’s fine but don’t turn around and force indentured servitude on them! If a kid has a skill to make money, nobody has the right to withhold that from them. Kids, regardless of age, should be able to do so if there is a market demand. Let kids go to the G-League, NBA, Europe, anywhere they want after High School to make money. Countless people have been saying it for years… baseball has it right.

Frankly, I’m surprised a class action lawsuit has not been brought against the NBA/NCAA. It’s ironic that it falls to another Kansas coach (Bill Self – NABC President) to get some common sense reform into the this un-American insanity.

Joe Ross 5 years, 2 months ago

Suzi there is a REASON for the age limit mandate. It's not like the NBA just chose to slap a restriction on kids. Returns of evidence suggest that the age limit mandate is helping to solve a lack of maturity problem, which manifests itself across the beam in a number of ways. It's helping kids so much, in fact, that a two-and-done rule has been proposed and is being considered. If your concern really IS all about the kids themselves, money is a fair consideration, but there are others.

Gavin Fritton 5 years, 2 months ago

The NBA has chosen to impose a minimum age restriction on players entering the draft because it benefits the NBA, not because it benefits the players. The NBA cares about the NBA and nothing else. They will happily chew up players based on "potential" and just as happil spit out the players based on "unfulfilled potential" when their rookie contract is done. They're glad to have players get an extra year of seasoning in college because it helps to save them from themselves. Look at a guy like Korleone Young. He could have been one of the greats. But the NBA drafted him on perceived potential when he should have played four years, at least three, before the NBA even gave him a look. The NBA is littered with the bodies of guys who were nowhere near good enough but the incentives to leave school early were just too much (Julian Wright, anyone?).

Freedman Moor 5 years, 2 months ago

The operative word is "trappings". I tried to make a point about Cliff Alexander a few years ago and the loan his mother tried to take out. The company that began the process for that loan had ties to human trafficking.

Then there is Leon Smith, who's story scares the hell out of the NBA. He went through 2 or three agents, got arrested a bunch of times, and was committed to a psychiatric facility after an attempted suicide. If anyone is looking for the impetus for the one-and-done rule, look no further.

Joe Ross 5 years, 2 months ago

The TRUTH is it benefits EVERYONE, Gavin. It benefits the players, the NBA, and college athletics.

Furthermore, if it is your contention that those leaving college early were incentivized too much by the NBA to leave early, then presumably youd be in favor of measures that kept kids in college longer so they dont come out half-baked. To be consistent with your own perspective, you would have to be in support of the age limit mandate, regardless of your opinions as to why you think the NBA implemented it.

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 2 months ago

If a kid is old enough to serve in the military, he should damn well have the right to decide if he should go to school or get a job to make some money. If the NBA doesn't want them, let them go to their G-League, just as the baseball players not wanting to go to college. No human being, on their own, could sit down and come up with a more ridiculous situation than the NBA/NCAA has developed.

Now Self is President of the NABC, lets see what he can get done.

Joe Ross 5 years, 2 months ago

The NBA is not a government-run institution and it makes its own requirements for acceptance.

Craig Carson 5 years, 2 months ago

the "old enough to serve in the military" reason has been done death and its idiotic..the NBA is a private employer and if they wanna set a standard for employment then they have that right..NBA owners are the ones writing those million dollar checks, and if they require a year of evaluation before forking over that $$ then players need to suck it up and just do what it takes to be drafted and fans need to quit b*ng about it..these kids choose to come to college..nothing is stopping them from going to Europe or even sitting out a year..and the NBA isnt going to invest in a D or G league..why would they invest hundreds of millions to revamp those leagues when they can follow the NCAA to NBA/NFL system that has worked for 60+ years??!!!

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 2 months ago

Personally, I think the current age requirement exists solely for the NCAA and the NBA. The exact same situation is between the NCAA and the NFL. College is a great free farm system for both leagues.

The NFL, the NBA, and the NCAA are making money off the backs of young athletes without any compensation for their talent or protection against injuries. The majority of professional sports have either no age limits or a minimum of 18 years old. The same age you can join the military without having your parents grant permission.

MLB allows players to join right out of high school with their professional farm leagues. Here a player is at least under a contract and is injured, he will at least receive some compensation. In the NCAA, if a player has a career ending injury, there is no compensation.

Maybe the new Gatorade league is an attempt by the NBA to develop some sort of farm system.

Steve Zimmerman 5 years, 2 months ago

This is sad if those recruits commit to KU because of the scandal. You want recruits who make decision to go to a college because they believe in the program or coaches, or tradition, not because they have no where else to go. Sigh..

Robert Brock 5 years, 2 months ago

It really has to do with the filth of the NBA.

Harlan Hobbs 5 years, 2 months ago

Brilliant analysis, Suzi. You are exactly correct about the "restriction of trade" issue involved in going straight to the pros from high school. I too am surprised that they NBA and NCAA haven't been hit with a class action lawsuit.

In a truly free country, people would be allowed to follow their dreams in accordance with their own timetables. Yes, many would make mistakes, but that would be their decision. We have too much of a "nanny state" already.

Does anyone really believe that Josh Jackson wouldn't have been a high draft pick out of high school? These kids have far more experience coming out of high school than ever before. Let them and their families decide their own future.

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 2 months ago

Harlan, I'm sure you remember what happened to Maurice Clarett when he tried to go professional after one year of college. The NFL (3 years after high school) and the NCAA effectively ended any chance of him ever playing professional football and the NFL.

Josh Jackson would probably have been drafted in the middle first round IMO.

Craig Carson 5 years, 2 months ago

the be fair, the NBA is a private employer...and they do have the right to set a standard for application..owners are dealing out millions and people think they shouldnt be allowed to implement a way to properly evaluate players before giving them money??!!! why would they pay them kids to be in the D or G leagues just to evaluate them when they can let the college do that for them..its a system that has worked for 60+ years

Joe Ross 5 years, 2 months ago

Craig has it right here. Also see Dirk's comments below...

Dirk Medema 5 years, 2 months ago

No one is preventing anyone from earning $. The NBA is a big company that is just setting rules for their members to protect their product. There are others that are willing to use 18 year olds in their business. There are some players that have chosen to make $ that way and others that have chosen the benefits of playing in the NCAA. That's their choice but they don't get to force a company to hire them when the company doesn't think it helps their business.

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 2 months ago

I talked to a labor attorney friend of mine over the weekend and he made some points somewhat similar to yours. Without getting into details, it seems much of it comes down to choice, which may be some motivation for developing the G-League. Bill Self's tenure as President to the NABC needs to seriously address the issue.

Brian Leslie 5 years, 2 months ago

As a KU alum, I wanted to point out that the vast majority of KU basketball fans never graduated or even attended the University of Kansas. Every year, KU graduates around 5,000 students; of those, let's say that 40% are passionate basketball fans who will stay strong fans for the next 50 years. I think that number is high, but just for some spitballing calculations, that gives us 100,000 KU alumni basketball fans at any given time. KU probably has 2 or 3 million fans nation-wide, so the number of KU basketball fans that care very deeply about academics and institutional purity is a low percentage. That's just the way it is -- it's a big, big business. There are market forces at work that couldn't care less about university mission statements.

I will be pretty shocked if we find out that a KU assistant was taking a $100,000 bribe, but I'm not going to be shocked if people in the life orbits of KU's (or any school's) basketball players got some money in exchange for influence over decision making. There's only so much that a basketball program can control. As with every issue that has come up since 2003, I'm going to trust Bill Self (who is noted more for finding diamond-in-the-rough players like Devonte and Frank and Tyshawn than getting 6 5-stars per year) to do the right thing.

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