Within the few days or so, several NCAA men’s basketball players and teams have been linked to an FBI investigation, regarding players and teams receiving illegal benefits from agents. Some of the players listed in the report include Markelle Fultz of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and Dennis Smith Jr., alumni of North Carolina State and current guard for the Dallas Mavericks. The FBI has also investigated successful NCAA men’s basketball programs such as Duke, Michigan State, Kentucky, Kansas, and North Carolina. The timing couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time, as each of these teams are fighting for high seeding in the NCAA tournament coming up in March.
Just when things looked bad for the reputation of the NCAA already, it got worse: The FBI wiretap caught Arizona head coach Sean Miller, along with sports agent Christian Dawkins discussing how to get then top recruit DeAndre Ayton to commit to playing for the Wildcats. They talked it over and agreed to pay Ayton a hundred thousand dollars to play for the team. A dark cloud hovers over Miller now. This last Saturday, he sat out the game versus Oregon as part of his cooperation with the investigation. Ayton, on the other hand, played.
Bribery is a serious crime in the NCAA rulebook. Recently, the university of Louisville men’s basketball team was hit hard by the NCAA, having to vacate the 2013 National Championship game, along with the 2011-12 regular season wins because of their assistant coaches paying prostitutes to interact with their oncoming student-athletes. Totally off-base. The president of the NCAA, Mark Emmert, even made it clear that there needs to be changes in the rules system to fit today’s college culture.
But what should the university of Arizona do with Sean Miller?Here is a suggestion: the university should suspend him. There is a standard that needs to be held in college athletics. Miller is a respected leader of that basketball program. The players should consider him a role model, someone other than their own parents to seek guidance from. The head coach should go out and recruit talent, yes. But not through collaborating with a shady sports agency and offering money and other assets to these individuals.
And now, because of this latest scandal, top high-school recruit Shareef O’Neal, the son of NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, has decommitted from Arizona and seeks to go play college hoops elsewhere in the country. Miller has no one to blame but himself for this latest paying student athlete controversy. What will really seal his fate is if he lets this get into his psyche, and his team’s play, coming into March. These wildcats must get their heads in the game. No excuses.