By Philip Johnson & Torin Alexander
Money makes the world go round. Most people associate money and sports with gambling, but throughout history, and especially as of recently, a different kind of scandal has swept across the college basketball landscape, making many question the integrity of the sport. Now people like to believe high school athletes choose the school they go to because of personal preference, that's far from the truth in some cases.
From the outside, it might just look like boosters are paying athletes; the problem goes much deeper and is widespread. Sadly, while most of these kids just want to play basketball, small choices that either they made, their parents made, or their coaches made can come back on them and the institute they choose to attend. The recent string of corruption cases in college basketball shows the hush hush part of high school recruiting and the power dynamic in collegiate sports. We’re going to take an inside look of those taboo, not to be discussed aspects of collegiate athletics.
The AAU, or Amaetuer Athletic Union, is a powerhouse program for basketball. Many big talents have gone through the AAU system and are now top notch talents in the NBA. Though recently, the AAU coaches have had a huge impact on college recruitments. Because AAU is such a prestigious program, coaches of colleges are in contact with theses AAU coaches. By having these contacts Colleges can have possible influence in the decisions of the young prospects. A well known way to influence decision is through, of course, money. Colleges have for years been able to bribe these AAU coaches to persuade their players to choose a particular college. Former recruiter Jay Williams funneled $250,000 to Cleveland Cavalier and former UCLA star Kevin Love’s AAU coach in hopes of bringing Love to UCLA. This isn't the first time that this sort of corruption happened, which makes fans of college basketball feel ripped off and upset. Glenelg Senior, Jordan Taylor, says “ I feel that it's unfair to all the other kids who actually put in the time and work. I also feel that players should make their own decisions based on where they want to go to school because steering players to certain schools can impact their life because it's not just about their athletics it's about their education, because when you take away sports all you have is your education”. AAU coaches are acquiring financial gains by the talents of their players, and using them to encourage young basketball players to join a certain college team. The AAU altogether is starting to seem more of a gambling operation than a kid’s basketball program.
The problem with all this manipulation is that these high school athletes break NCAA rules unknowingly and it can harm them. A lot of these high profile recruits are only going to be playing for one or two years in college so the consequences don’t affect them, however they hurt the school. The power of the dollar gets in the way of what these kids actually want to do. Recently a groundbreaking report came from the NCAA that over 50 collegiate basketball teams were somehow involved in an illegal recruiting operation. Most of the schools were not major programs, but a few of the big names are USC, Miami, Arizona, and Louisville. These school’s influenced star recruits into matriculating into certain colleges and influence NBA prospects into hiring certain investment advisors. University financial advisors, school alumni, program boosters, Athletic Directors, and coaches across the country face legal trouble from the NCAA and FBI. Out of all the schools who got into hot water, Louisville faces the most backlash. The Cardinals were looking for one more recruit for their 2017 class. They were pursuing 5 star wing player Brian Bowen. Bowen was thought by many to be a future Indiana Hoosier. However, Bowen's father said he wanted money if his son was to come play for the Cardinals. Adidas, the official sponsor for Louisville athletics then secretly wired $100,000 to Bowen’s father. To everyone's surprise a few days later, Bowen was a Cardinal. The FBI and NCAA caught wind, beginning a nationwide investigation. A few days later the Cardinals head coach was gone. Eight of its assistant coaches were gone; Bowen is awaiting word from the NCAA on whether he can play or not. This problem appears to be non-stop, but to Glenelg varsity basketball player Garrett Mills, the problem is over. “ I just feel like with the enormous amount of trouble all these schools got in, other schools will know that these illegal tactics will no longer be allowed without major consequence”. Collegiate basketball has been clouded with these problems for a long time, however it looks like they are close to being over.
The problem with these scandals is that they don’t just pertain to money. It can be gifts given to athletes. Houses and cars bought for them and their family. The most well known player in basketball today dealt with similar problems when he was in high school. Lebron James was in a recruiting controversy when in 2003 he was spotted driving a brand new Hummer that people knew his mother couldn’t possibly afford. Gifts like these that program boosters and shoe companies give kids is a clear violation of NCAA rules and regulations. Colleges will go so far as to help kids cheat their way through tests just to ensure they can go to college. That exact situation occurred when the University of Memphis paid someone to take Derrick Rose’s SAT’s for him. Some movies have even been made talking about this very subject. In the movie “He Got Game” “Jesus Shuttlesworth” the main character played by NBA legend Ray Allen is illegally persuaded by multiple schools in hopes he will choose to play ball there. His father is a convict and gets a deal from his warden that he will be free’d if he convinces his son to play basketball at the warden’s alma-mater. Another movie that puts these criminal acts in the spotlight is “Blue Chips”. It focuses on a college basketball coach who has mediocre players but wants to improve. So the boosters of the school get together and give out houses, money and gifts to three great high school basketball players. The three kids then come to the school, but suspicion is raised as to why. It all unfolds in the end, and the school gets in trouble, and the coach is fired. These are just more examples of how many laws will be broken just to make some money.
The underbelly of college basketball was exposed in this attempt to manipulate and control young minds for profit. Everyone in every college who was involved in this process are just another example of the power of the dollar. These people don't have the kids best interest at heart. They want to fatten their wallets and protect their name all while hiding behind the players they use as a scapegoat. The problem while stalled right now will might continue to go on, and if it does it won't ever stop.