Opinion: The FBI investigation of college basketball may stop rampant corruption

The under-the-table payments to college stars may finally come to an end

In a string of events Friday, UA men's basketball head coach Sean Miller was accused of discussing a $100,000 payment to freshman center DeAndre Ayton in order to lock up the then-incoming freshman's commitment to the Wildcats.

In addition to Ayton and Miller, former and current college basketball players were exposed earlier on Friday when an article from Yahoo Sports detailed specific payments made to the players during their time in collegiate basketball.

"(I'm) not surprised by what they're finding," said Shawn Klein, a lecturer within ASU's School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies who currently teaches a course on the philosophy of sports. "This is the kind of (rumors and innuendo) that most people have been hearing about for decades."

The Yahoo Sports report included 25 different schools, but thankfully for Sun Devil fans, ASU was not one of them.

A large reason as to why this investigation is even happening in the first place is because of the way the NCAA treats its athletes as laborers who are forced to work without pay or benefit.

By not allowing athletes to ink endorsements, sign autographs or sell memorabilia, the NCAA is  forcing players to explore the option of getting paid illegally under the table.

"We ought to treat student athletes like we treat any other student at the university," Klein said. "If you are a performing arts student, and you get a role in a movie, you can go star in that movie, and no one says, 'well you can't come back to campus and be part of the performing arts department.'"

In result of the allegations, the severity and size of the investigation into the scandal is great enough that it is likely that under-the-table payments to collegiate basketball players may come to an end.

That same Yahoo Sports report stated that ASM sports agency was found giving money to multiple Pac-12 stars, including University of Southern California's Bennie Boatwright and  Chimezie Metu, former University of Utah forward Kyle Kuzma and former University of Washington guard Markelle Fultz.

Washington, Utah and USC have joined UA in the latest scandal, but unlike the three other Pac-12 schools involved in the case, the Wildcats will likely have to feel the effects of this scandal for a very long time.

Back in February, former Wildcats assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson was arrested for paying bribes to student athletes, as Richardson allegedly offered $150,000 to a five-star recruit.

Now with head coach Sean Miller and star center DeAndre Ayton in the middle of the case to go along with Richardson's arrest, it is probable that ASU's rival down south will have to press the restart button on its program.

"From a public relations perspective, they probably want to move on from (Sean Miller) at this point," Klein said. "(But) they might not be able to for contractual and legal reasons."

It is possible that ASU could be one of the up to 50 teams involved in the ongoing investigation, but Sun Devil basketball hasn't had a track record of getting recruits good enough to even entertain the possibility of an investigation into its program.

Back in February, ASU released this statement on the investigation:

"ASU is committed to the principle of athletics compliance and the concept that our student-athletes and athletics stakeholders play by the rules, both on and off the playing field," the statement said. 

In terms of high-profile recruits, the only nugget of suspicion for ASU when it comes to the current NCAA investigation, has to do with incoming top 30 national recruit Taeshon Cherry.

Cherry was reportedly tagged as “Player-8” in the federal criminal complaint on former USC associate head coach Tony Bland back when Cherry had committed to USC. 

With the FBI revealing this mass amount of corruption in college basketball, it certainly raises the question as to whether or not this investigation will actually stop the under-the-table payments of players for good.

More than 25 schools have been mentioned, four assistant coaches have been arrested, Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino lost his job and numerous current and former big name players in college basketball have been exposed.

For years, the worst-kept secret in college basketball was that many of the sport's top players were being paid under the table. 

What this recent college basketball investigation has shown is that the magnitude of these allegations may destroy the underground economy of the NCAA once and for all.



Reach the columnist at kbriley@asu.edu and on twitter @KokiRiley.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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