ATHENS – It wasn’t until mid-morning on Friday that Mark Fox read the bombshell Yahoo Sports report on teams and players implicated in an ongoing FBI investigation of college basketball. It include big-name players at big-name schools who allegedly were paid by an agent, including several whom Georgia, where Fox is the coach, had pursued.
But to Fox it wasn’t much of a bombshell. Not much when it comes to the FBI investigation, or corruption in college basketball recruiting, is a surprise to Fox.
“My reaction is it’s probably just the tip of the iceberg, if people really want to be honest about it,” Fox said. “I’m not surprised. Sadly. Really I’m not. I have no idea what impact it will have on our game.”
Fox clearly is skeptical that any changes for the good ultimately will come out of all of it.
“I do not have great confidence that that will happen, but we’ll see where it goes,” Fox said. “It always seems to be that [people say], ‘Did it really happen, did it not happen, we’ll do this, we’ll do that.’ And then the behavior just continues. So until there’s significant consequences for the behavior, then it’s going to continue.”
Fox is nearing the end of his ninth season as Georgia’s coach, and he also might be nearing the end of his tenure. He’s under significant pressure as Georgia (15-12 overall, 6-9 in the SEC) enters the final three games of the regular season. The Bulldogs have two NCAA Tournament appearances under Fox and have been eliminated in the first round each time.
Fox’s supporters have argued that he wasn’t dealing with a level playing field in recruiting. On Friday, he said there was “no question” he has battled against the factors indicated in the FBI investigation.
“There’s no question that’s had some impact on certain recruiting situations,” Fox said.
Several players Georgia was known to be targeting over the years were listed in the Yahoo report: Duke freshman Wendell Carter, Alabama freshman Collin Sexton, and former Virginia guard Malcolm Brogdon, now in the NBA. So was former LSU forward Tim Quarterman. All are Georgia natives who signed elsewhere.
Fox did not want to discuss specifics.
“I don’t know what’s happening at other places with other kids, but obviously it’s a frustrating situation when you get in those situations when at the end of the day things like this happen,” Fox said. “That would frustrate anybody, I would think, in this situation.”
So how does this get fixed? Fox mentioned “institutional accountability in intercollegiate athletics.”
It also may help this time, Fox opined, that the NCAA will have information gathered from the FBI report that it otherwise wouldn’t have, since the FBI has subpoena power that the NCAA does not.
Current or former players at Kentucky, South Carolina and Alabama were mentioned in the Yahoo report. The investigation already has ensnared and Auburn, with one key player held out and an assistant coach fired. South Carolina made the Final Four last year, while Kentucky, Alabama and Auburn are on track to make the upcoming tournament. Georgia, on the other hand, will need a near-perfect finish to make it.
Fox was asked Friday if he had made a decision to do things the right way, even if it meant suffering the consequences on the court through the years.
“The goal is to find the guys that can help you win games. And the hope is you can find the guys to do that the right way,” Fox said. “I think we’ve always tried to be that way. I have, my entire career.”