The worst kept secret in college basketball is no longer a secret

Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta (left) and Fran McCaffery talk before a game

By Pat Harty

IOWA CITY, Iowa - The worst kept secret in college athletics isn’t a secret anymore.

Recruiting at the highest level of men’s collegiate basketball is a cesspool filled with greedy agents, greedy parents, greedy athletes, greedy coaches, greedy shoe executives and greedy school presidents.

The media has known this for years, but has struggled to tap the right lines for information because those inspired by greed usually operate in the shadows and take steps to avoid being caught by using their power and influence to conceal the ugly truth

It would take something powerful and far reaching to penetrate the protective shield, and that has now happened as the FBI announced on Tuesday that 10 people, including four college basketball assistant coaches, were arrested as part of a two-year investigation into bribes and other corruption in the sport.

It was a dark day for men’s collegiate basketball, but a day that was long overdue and much needed for the future of the sport.

The FBI is on a mission to rid the sport of the corruption and scandal that has rocked it for years, and more power to them.

The media investigating this scandal is one thing. The FBI pursuing it with its subpoena power and its vast resources is another.

Those responsible for the corruption are powerless against the FBI. That’s why you’ll probably see many of the accused agree to testify in hopes of gaining some mercy.

The strong ties between agents and shoe executives and coaches means nothing when the FBI is breathing down your neck. They only thing that matters now is self-preservation.

The recruiting process became ripe for corruption when the NCAA allowed the shoe companies to have such a prominent role.

With the arrest of an Adidas executive on Tuesday, and with the schemes that saw money being paid to the families of star recruits now exposed, it’s clear that the shoe companies were dictating the terms, while the NCAA and university presidents did nothing but stuff their pockets.

The list of the guilty in this scandal includes people from all walks of life, from the self-serving AAU coaches looking for a handout to the self-serving university presidents looking to make millions.

The school presidents signed off on this years ago and then allowed the corruption to fester beneath the surface until it was too late to change.

Rick Pitino said he was shocked to learn that one of his assistant coaches at Louisville was connected to the scandal, just like he was shocked when one of his former assistant coaches was accused of hiring hookers to have sex with recruits.

Pitino is either a habitual liar or the most naïve coach in the business. Either way, Louisville did the only thing it could do under the circumstances by showing him the door.

Pitino probably should’ve been fired after the hooker scandal broke, but he had too much power and influence to succumb to that.

It took the FBI to finally bring Pitino to his knees.

You also have to wonder if Auburn coach Bruce Pearl will survive this latest scandal given his track record.

Auburn assistant coach Chuck Person was arrested on Tuesday and is facing six federal charges of corruption, bribery and fraud, and he is alleged to have received $91,500 in bribes over a 10-month period. If convicted of all charges, Person could face up to 80 years in prison.

The situation at Auburn hits home because Iowa City native Matt Gatens was recently hired by Pearl as a graduate assistant and has since moved his family to Alabama. Gatens is trying to start the next chapter in his life and now he has to deal with the mess at Auburn, a mess that he had nothing to do with making.

The University of Iowa hasn't been linked to the investigation, nor are there any rumors saying it will be.

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery has rebuilt the program mostly with unheralded recruits rather than those looking for handouts.

It's reasonable to assume that the college coaches who obey the rules welcome this investigation and wish it would've happened a long time ago because they have nothing to hide and a lot to gain from the cheaters being exposed.

My hope is that this investigation cleans house and helps to restore the integrity that has been sorely missing from the recruiting process.

My hope is that the power shifts back to the high school coaches and away from the AAU coaches, and that the one-and-done rule is changed so there is nothing to stop a recruit from going directly from high school to the NBA if he so chooses.  

The one-and-done rule has created an environment for cheating and scandal because so many of the people involved with the process are looking for a handout.

But now, fortunately, the FBI is looking closely at them. And it’s about time.