On Tuesday, Sept. 26, the FBI released a report announcing the arrest of 10 individuals connected to an investigation into corruption and bribery in the NCAA. These arrests were a culmination of a two-year investigation. The violations concern players and their families receiving bribes to attend certain schools and coaches being bribed to steer them into signing with certain sports agents and financial managers.
The NCAA is no stranger to scandals involving elite Division I programs. As long as players are unable to sign endorsement deals and use their personal image to make money, scandals similar to the current FBI investigation will continue to happen. Prominent schools such as Syracuse and North Carolina have been under investigation in recent years for academic dishonesty. Ole Miss football is currently under investigation for providing payments to players and their families. The key difference between the aforementioned investigations and this FBI investigation is that law enforcement was not involved. Previously, while NCAA rules regarding payment of players and academic fraud were violated, no crimes were committed. The extent of the bribery accused in the FBI’s current report violates federal laws.
Arguably the most prominent school involved in the report is Louisville, a storied program that won a national championship four years ago. Earlier this year, the NCAA punished its basketball program for an unrelated scandal in which the university paid for escorts to entertain recruits during their campus visits. The day after the FBI report was released, Louisville fired hall of fame head coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.
The principal issue is that high-caliber Division I basketball and football programs create incredible profits at the expense of their athletes. Schools like Louisville make millions of dollars while many of their players come from indigent backgrounds and are often in need of financial assistance. In college sports, players are strictly prohibited from signing their own endorsement deals and have to wait until they leave to cash in. For the majority of players who never make it to the professional leagues, this never happens, and they lose out on their only opportunity to make money off of their college fame.
Everyone likes to think that their school is doing things the right way, but the reality is that corruption is rampant in college sports, among both major and lesser-known schools. In 2009, the Binghamton men’s basketball program came under fire for significantly decreasing admissions requirements for potential recruits, resulting in an investigation by SUNY and the resignations of the coach, athletic director and other University officials.
So far, only six schools have been accused of involvement in the current investigation, but many experts believe this is only the tip of the iceberg. Other schools are likely involved in this type of corruption, as well as other athletic-wear companies, such as Nike.
Another issue facing college basketball is the fact that players have to be at least one year removed from high school and at least 19 years old to declare for the NBA draft. This rule, enacted in 2006, has resulted in the rise of one-and-done players that enter college intending to only stay for a single year, and then declare for the NBA draft. These players are seeking to immediately end their exploitation by the NCAA.
There are repeated stories of college athletes being suspended after selling their autograph in order to make money, and recently, there have been situations in which players were making money legally with their own businesses, such as YouTube channels, and have been shut down by the NCAA for making money using their image.
Ultimately, situations such as the current FBI investigation and other NCAA rule violations in recent years will continue to happen as long as student-athletes are prohibited from receiving any sort of compensation for the millions of dollars they bring into their schools. While it may not be impossible for schools to pay athletes with contracts as though they are professionals, the fact that they are strictly prohibited from receiving any sort of compensation for their success is unacceptable.