We’ve heard these sentiments before – “The NCAA is a corrupt system”; “The NCAA’s student-athlete model is obsolete”; “The NCAA unjustly prohibits its athletes from profiting on their name, image, or likeness.” Multiple arguments (reasonable or not) can be made for or against the NCAA, and whether its practices actually benefit the players, or the coaches and university they play for. Conversations regarding the existence of the NCAA have raged on for years, with its demise routinely discussed as inevitable but not imminent. However, in the wake of the second college basketball corruption trial, coupled with the numerous alternative options unveiling itself to top prospects, now more than ever appears to be the time to legitimately question how long the NCAA may exist in its current state.
The second college basketball trial regarding charges of bribery, wire fraud, and conspiracy to induce players into signing with certain college basketball programs began last week, producing a number of new, but not so shocking, allegations, such as:
- Arizona basketball coach, Sean Miller, “fronted” a deal to ensure DeAndre Ayton – the No. 4 player in the class of 2017 and No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft – would sign with the Wildcats;
- Recently reinstated LSU basketball coach, Will Wade, was involved in a deal that allegedly paid Naz Reid – currently ranked by ESPN as the No. 50 prospect in the 2019 NBA Draft – $300,000 to join his team; and
- Alabama’s Collin Sexton’s father was paid $20,000, while the family members of former Wildcat commits Jahvon Quinerly, Allonzo Trier, and Rawle Atkins also received sizeable payments for such player’s recruitment.
Each of the foregoing transgressions had already been brought to light, but the most groundbreaking claim coming from the courthouse was government witness, Marty Blazer’s – a financial advisor who had already pleaded guilty to a number of federal charges relating to the bribery scheme and cooperating in pursuit of a lesser sentence – statement that he paid up to several thousand dollars to recruits to attend various football programs, including notable schools such as Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State, and Alabama.
The schools and its coaches will undoubtedly claim they had no prior knowledge of Blazer’s actions, but such defense does little to defeat the belief that corruption within the NCAA is not widespread. Though some fans have implicitly accepted the notion that players are paid some way or the other, the NCAA prides itself on the perception that its athletes are students and not employees. Blazer’s statements, in addition to other third party claims seeking to expose pay-for-play conspiracies throughout major programs, may lead to further investigation and self-reporting amongst schools looking to avoid backlash from the NCAA.
Effects on Recruiting
In order to maintain public integrity, the NCAA will be forced to buckle down and force colleges to show they are not suffering from lack of institutional control. Increased regulations regarding recruitment may also be considered a necessary remedy. With the arrival of alternative options to reach their ultimate goal, top recruits may be dissuaded from the system altogether.
One such route is the NBA G League’s “Select Contracts” program, which begins the 2019-2020 NBA Season and provides a professional path for elite basketball prospects. Furthermore, the NBA’s “one-and-done” rule appears to be on its last legs, with talks of the 2022 NBA Draft being the first to allow high school players since 2005. Potential draftees have already uncovered the loophole to the rule requiring that entrants be a year removed from his original high school graduating class and turn 19 in the year of the draft, with players electing to play a 5th year of high school, or pursuing professional opportunities overseas.
And while the XFL has not formalized its eligibility rules, the league has the potential to serve as the NFL Development League the AAF wished to be. While not outright declaring that straight from high school players will be accepted, XFL Commissioner, Oliver Luck, has stated on numerous occasions that the league will not turn down players ineligible to play in the NFL.
Not every player is a Zion Williamson or Trevor Lawrence level talent; however, that doesn’t take away from the fact that student-athletes provide significant value to their universities. Social media provides student-athletes with various ways to build and capitalize on their brand. While big-time programs may deliver exposure and tools for development to further one’s craft, alternative leagues are beginning to do the same, while also providing compensation.
long can student-athletes play under the guise of “amateurism,” while coaches’
sign $93 million contracts and schools receive $200 million endorsement
contracts? Some may consider the NCAA “too big to fail,” but at some point,
players will realize they are the product driving the NCAA, and are worthy of
being paid for their efforts. If the NCAA isn’t willing to modify its system,
another establishment will rise and take its place.