Expect such news to continue as the FBI's probe into college basketball's shady relationship with recruiting, shoe companies and agents is revealed. Reckoning day is here, and until March, you can bet it'll be the only thing anybody working in the sport will be talking about.
Change is coming to college basketball, and, likely, college sports as a whole. It's a certainty now as the players, coaches, administrators and governing body deal with the fallout of a bombshell story in the sport that will likely continue for months and, perhaps, years.
So what should change? The sport's underbelly can never be spotless, but it can be addressed. Here are five ideas for repairing a broken college basketball system.
1. College sports will never fully abandon amateurism, but the NCAA can at least copy the Olympic model.
"Pay the players!" is the right thing to do, but it's a logistic unlikelihood as college athletic departments have stretched their budgets too thin on coaching salaries, facilities and a number of other amenities that fall short of cash's functionality.
In the Olympic model, players are free to earn money on the free market through endorsements, autograph signings or other similar outlets.
"But wait!" you say. "Won't companies with ties to schools just overpay for players and try to steer them to their campus?"
Yes! They probably will! But here's the thing about the free market: There's no such thing as being overpaid. You're worth what someone will pay you. And maybe the Kentuckys, Dukes and North Carolinas of the world will dominate that market with hungry fans who have open pockets, but how is that any different than how college basketball operates now? The bluebloods split all the one-and-done players as is, but consider the opposite effect: It should give hope to smaller schools.
If you're able to come up with cash and people willing to pump it into paying for player endorsements, less accomplished programs can more easily climb the ladder and offer more parity in the sport. In college football, people celebrated Phil Knight and T. Boone Pickens funneling cash into Oregon and Oklahoma State, allowing them to build top-shelf facilities and retain elite coaches.
Why would a similar set up be so bad in college basketball? If you've got an angel investor who wants to win, let them invest.
The process can and should be regulated, though: Every deal should be public, so a less business-savvy player can look at the recruiting rankings and have a good idea of how much he should be worth for how he's being used in advertising. Make it hard for anyone to take advantage of their talent.
There are logistical questions in adopting the model, but they all have better answers than the biggest question in today's broken amateurism model: "Why can players produce millions of dollars for their university and only get paid the worth of a diploma they might not ever even receive?"
2. Forge a partnership with the NBA.
Talented players are identified in junior high or earlier, and they attract "handlers" who don't want much more from a kid than to make money off him. That will almost certainly never go away, but you can mitigate some of the factors that make a hustle like that worthwhile. They must work together to fix the problems within the sport. Both can be better off.
Harsh sentences for scandals such as this recent one do very little to de-incentivize rule breaking. Nobody thinks they're going to get caught, and when they do, it only produces more chaos when innocent people on the periphery suffer the consequences. Don't punish the kids and parents trying to help their families pay bills. Punish the people flowing the money in the market. If you get caught tampering or crossing boundaries with kids who aren't in the draft, you lose your ability to practice as an agent.
My intellectual limitations don't provide a good answer to taking away shoe companies' influence in the sport and recruiting, but at least in the Olympic model, money will be taxed and regulated so nobody's risking years in prison.
If basketball is going to be repaired, the NBA owes its feeder system to lend a hand.
3. The NBA needs to get rid of its age rule.
This is where that partnership has to activate, to abolish the NBA rule that forces players to be 19 years old to enter the NBA Draft, thus creating the one-and-done phenomenon. There isn't nearly as much at stake when a player loses eligibility in high school, and the truly elite players who most often inspire rule breaking would already be headed pro. Maybe it won't completely solve all the problems, but it would improve some of the corruption, at least as it relates to college basketball.
And if you can't get rid of the NBA Draft age limit, I've always been a proponent of a "two years in college, or one year in the G League" policy. College hoops gets more star power, continuity and talent. Guys who insist on going pro can get paid and adjust to life away from home. Plus, the unwatchable G League actually now gives fans a reason to watch. Everybody wins, but the NBA has to get involved and help.
4. Simplify the NCAA rulebook.
It's currently over 400 pages. The coaches know better. Or at least they should. They're required to pass a test on the rules of recruiting before the NCAA allows them to do it. However, a lot of the time, players and their parents aren't sure what's legal or illegal regarding contact or what can and can't be paid for. A friendly gesture -- "Let me help you out with some plane tickets to that camp" -- sounds like a good deal for a family with a tight budget and parents naive to the rules. But it can put their son's eligibility in jeopardy. Make it easier for novices to understand the rules. At least in that scenario, you're asking two people to consciously break rules instead of one.
5. Change the NCAA sanctions strategy.
Postseason bans? Reduced scholarships? That just hurts players who did nothing wrong. Flip the script and start dealing out harsher punishments to head coaches who like to constantly talk about how they're responsible for and know about everything that goes on in their program but are quick to deny knowledge when something improper goes down. Like, say, an assistant allegedly paying for recruits to spend time with prostitutes.
Start punishing the people who are paid to know what's going on and should know better. Start handing out yearlong suspensions (or more) to coaches whose programs break the rules. Give coaches more incentive to do what they say they do: Know everything that's going on.
And if they didn't know, too bad. They should have. They hired the coaches. They're responsible for everything else in their program, regardless of whether or not it's their "fault."
6. Admit that some problems can't be fully solved and publicly acknowledge the issues that plague the sport.
My head hurts from rolling my eyes all week at statements from schools saying they were "shocked" that this was going on within their programs. It takes a lot of intellectual dishonesty to try to pass that off as truth.
There are going to be shady people who see a junior high kid has talent and become his "friend" and "adviser" and end up shopping him around. The kid doesn't get taken advantage of too badly on that deal, but it brings a lot of unsavory characters into the picture and puts money in people's pockets who aren't the young player producing it. Most often, everybody gets paid but him. People who make money off teenagers while putting their eligibility at risk and ask coaches to put their programs at risk by paying out cash are the scum of college sports and the genesis of the reasons why a lot of kids who end up causing NCAA violations or getting declared ineligible.
As we mentioned earlier, endorsements could take away some of that market and put more money where it belongs: To the people who earned it. That's America, and it would be make for a better college basketball landscape.