As most college sports fans tell themselves, student-athletes choose a school based on the quality of education, coaching, and overall program an institution has to offer, with some consideration to proximity to home and stylishness of uniforms. And while that may be true for some, or even most college athletes, astute observers of the college game have known there have been different forces driving recruiting for some time.
Some of those dark arts were laid bare this week, when the FBI announced the arrests of ten people, including four college basketball coaches, a sports apparel executive, and multiple financial advisers.
Every Picture Tells a Story, Don't It?
"The picture painted by the charges brought today is not a pretty one," acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim of the Southern District of New York said in a press conference discussing a three-year investigation. "Coaches at some of the nation's top programs soliciting and accepting cash bribes; managers and financial advisers circling blue-chip prospects like coyotes; and employees of one of the world's largest sportswear companies secretly funneling cash to the families of high school recruits."
Put simply, financial advisers and executives at apparel companies were sending cash to athletes and/or their families in order to secure the players' commitments to schools with which the apparel companies are affiliated and specific money managers once the athletes signed pro contracts.
The coaches, executives, and financial advisers have been charged with crimes ranging from wire fraud and money-laundering, to bribery, fraud, and conspiracy.
Players Only Love You When They're Playing
ESPN has an in-depth accounting of the schemes and major players in the FBI's investigation, but those arrested thus far are:
And the investigation is far from over. The FBI has subpoenaed documents from Nike, the University of Miami admitted it is subject to the FBI probe, University of Alabama basketball administrator Kobie Baker resigned amidst the investigation, the confidential informant has deep ties to the University of North Carolina, and legendary coach Rick Pitino (and his athletic director) have been placed on administrative leave by the University of Louisville.
If anything is certain in the latest controversy in collegiate athletics, it's that the investigation, criminal charges, and reputational fallout are far from over.