Big Ten commissioner: NCAA basketball recruiting scandal 'storm clouds'
ROSEMONT, Ill. — Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said Thursday significant “storm clouds” are hanging over college athletics because of a basketball recruiting scandal.
Delany cited a federal trial that began in New York last week following an FBI investigation, and he said there is a “pattern” at certain schools. He also insisted the vast majority of programs are following the rules.
“I would say as negative as it is — no doubt that they are storm clouds of a significant magnitude — we have 300 Division I institutions and we have 1,000 players that are being recruited every year,” he said. “While these are not isolated, I think they are at a certain level of recruitment and at certain institutions appear to be a pattern. These are not to be dismissed (and are to be) taken seriously. There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of players recruited properly and hundreds and hundreds of programs that are clean.”
Speaking at the conference’s annual basketball media day, Delany said “an unsettling, negative narrative” has been brought to light by the investigation. He also said the allegations are “not shocking to me.”
“I would say there’s going to be three trials and every day there seems to be revelations,” he added. “Some of them are new and some of them have been heard before. But these were statements made under oath as a result of the FBI wiretaps of hundreds of hours if not more of thousands of conversations. Very negative.”
Federal prosecutors have cast major college basketball as a corrupt enterprise where powerhouse programs and their high-profile coaches lean on athletic apparel giants to lure top prospects with cash payments to their struggling families. They argue that when top high school star Brian Bowen Jr. announced in June 2017 he would attend Louisville, he did it because of a payoff to his father.
Former sports agent Christian Dawkins, former Amateur Athletic Union coach Merl Code and former Adidas executive James Gatto have all pleaded not guilty to charges they plotted to pay Bowen’s father in exchange for his son’s promise to commit to Louisville.
It is the first trial related to an FBI investigation that exposed the sleazy side of big money in college basketball and led to charges against multiple people involved in making payments to student athletes. Other defendants, including former assistant coaches from Arizona, Auburn, the University of Southern California and Oklahoma State, face separate trials.
“It’s sad for college basketball and college sports,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.
Izzo’s program was mentioned in the trial, though not in a negative light. Dawkins’ defense attorney Steve Haney said Michigan State was one of the only schools that would not have paid Bowen to attend, according to the Arizona Daily Star.
“I don’t feel vindicated, because you shouldn’t be commended for doing what you’re supposed to do,” Izzo said. “We didn’t do anything any different. Just about every program that I know here does it the same way, and I take my hat off to all the Big Ten coaches. It’s not healthy for our organization. It’s not healthy for college basketball. It’s not healthy for college sports, and hopefully, something will come of it.”
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said he doesn’t think the trial will have a major impact on the sport. He said college basketball is “in great shape.”
“I think we have great depth throughout college basketball,” he said. “It continues to grow. I think we have great coaching in our game. I think we have some really great teams this year, three, four, five teams that are terrific teams.”
Delany said the issues are nothing new to college sports. But better systems can be put in place to prevent them.
He said coaches can be better educated and that relationships with companies can be forged that don’t create conflicts of interest.
“There always have been these issues,” Delany said. “They used to involve boosters, third parties, shoe companies, commercial interests of one kind or another, agents and runners. I think there has to be a recognition that our approach can’t be the same approach we took in the ’80s. I don’t think the colleges and the NCAA will ever get the kinds of governmental authority that it takes to break a conspiracy of silence or conspiracy of hiding their approach.”
Purdue guard Carsen Edwards was voted the Big Ten preseason player of the year and a unanimous selection to the all-conference team. Edwards averaged 18.5 points and made 97 3-pointers — second-most in school history — as a sophomore last season while helping the Boilermakers reach the Sweet 16.
Wisconsin forward Ethan Happ was also a unanimous pick. Indiana guard Romeo Langford and forward Juwan Morgan, Maryland guard Anthony Cowan Jr., Michigan guard Charles Matthews, Michigan State forward Nick Ward and guard Cassius Winston, Minnesota senior forward Jordan Murphy and Nebraska senior forward James Palmer Jr. were also selected.
The Big Ten doesn’t have a preseason poll for order of finish in the conference, but it does choose a preseason player of the year, as voted by the media.