ATHENS ― I love it. I think it’s great. The FBI probe into the underground network of agents making payments to players might be the best thing to happen to college basketball since the creation of March Madness.
Never before has a sport needed an enema as much as college hoops. And based on what I’ve been reading at Yahoo Sports and ESPN, it’s about to get one.
First off, the feds are involved. And they’ve got records. They reportedly have spreadsheets and bank records that meticulously detail how much money former NBA agent Andy Miller and his cohorts paid ― and to whom ― to secure the services of high-profile college basketball prospects.
Well, actually, they saw them as pro prospects. But first, of course, they have to spend their year in college. So Miller and his people allegedly would lock up the players before they went to college, and then reconvene on the other side to pursue a professional relationship.
And now they’re starting to come out with schools and names. The latest from Yahoo, which has lead the reporting on this case, mentions Duke, North Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, Michigan State, Southern Cal and Alabama. It names Duke’s Wendell Carter, Michigan State’s Miles Bridges and Alabama’s Collin Sexton ― or their relatives ― as recipients of unallowed benefits.
Carter, you might note, is from Atlanta. He went to Pace Academy. So is Sexton, who went to Pebblebrook High School.
There’s also a line on one of the documents the feds got from Miller’s agency that lists something called “U1st Atlanta” and its connection to $131,335.93. I don’t know what U1st Atlanta is, so I googled it and a LinkedIn business profile told me this: “You First Sports is a global athlete representation and sports marketing firm with offices in Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Milano, Istanbul, Miami, New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Mexico DF, Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile and Shanghai.” There was also a Cortera Business Directory listing for a “U1st Sports Atlanta LLC” with a Brookhaven address.
I’m not sure what that’s all about. But if you’re a Georgia fan, this is when you feel real good about your coach being Mark Fox.
The word on the street always has been that Fox refused to interact with agents, AAU coaches or other third-party entities when it came to recruiting players for Georgia. There are even some out there who were critical of him for that. They said it was holding UGA back from getting the best players and being great in basketball.
I don’t know how long this probe is going to take and how far-reaching it will end up being. But every indication is that there are no Bulldogs involved. Fox might’ve been the only thing standing between UGA getting swept up in this ugly scandal.
As for the FBI probe, this has needed to happen for a long time. I’m not sure why the NCAA hasn’t been able to crack this ring and get to the bottom of it before. For years, we all have heard about street agents and AAU coaches with undue influence over their players and what shoes they choose to wear. How hard could it have been for the NCAA to dig into that?
That’s why I found laughable the statement released by NCAA President Mark Emmert about these latest findings.
“These allegations, if true, point to systematic failures that must be fixed and fixed now if we want college sports in America,” Emmert said. “Simply put, people who engage in this kind of behavior have no place in college sports. They are an affront to all those who play by the rules.”
Like he has never heard about anything like this before. For me, the second part of his statement has a little more teeth.
“The [NCAA Board of Governors] and I are completely committed to making transformational changes to the game and ensuring all involved in college basketball do so with integrity,” he said. “We also will continue to cooperate with the efforts of federal prosecutors to identify and punish the unscrupulous parties seeking to exploit the system through criminal acts.”
Good. Maybe the NBA and NCAA can finally come to an agreement to close the door on the whole “one-and-done” concept in college basketball. A player who has the ability to play pro basketball right out of high school has every right to go do it and make as much money as he can.
But if he chooses to go the college route, then he should remain an amateur and have to hang around to actually receive some true education rather than use it as a four-month stop on the way to the pros. It will be good for both the NBA and NCAA.
And if it means that Kentucky and Duke and the like will have to cease signing three or four one-and-dones every year, it could be good for Georgia as well.