College Basketball’s Pay to Play


Former Basketball Coach Rick Pitino of University of Louisville. Creative Commons.

It’s no secret that college athletics has a lot of money running through it. Coaches are paid extravagant salaries, teams use player likenesses for profit, and the Final Four tournament is the biggest sport event in the spring. These schools also bring money in from big name athletic sponsorships from companies such as Nike and Adidas.

Programs such as Nike’s Elite youth basketball program help funnel talented players to help get them exposure and helps create top end talent for Division I NCAA programs. The allegations that were brought on by the FBI however prove that this system is more corrupt than anyone thought.

On Tues., Sept. 26, the FBI arrested 10 people including several Division I assistant coaches along with Jim Gatto, director of global sports marketing for basketball at Adidas, in connection with an investigation on college basketball bribery. Coaches at Arizona, USC, Auburn, and Oklahoma State have all been named in connection with this investigation as well.

According to the indictments, several assistant coaches and Adidas executives have been paying high school players to drive them to signing on to Adidas sponsored schools. Then once the player turns pro they would sign a pro sponsorship with Adidas.

The fallout of this controversy has already been felt around the sports world, and some critics of these allegations such as ESPN’s Jay Bilas said he believes that these controversies won’t stop unless the NCAA starts paying players. The allegations are groundbreaking in revealing the underworld of college basketball.

Louisville Basketball is also tied to the investigation. Louisville, who are already on NCAA probation due to buying prostitutes for prospects in order to get them to come to the school, is now in trouble for allegedly funneling at least $100,000 for one high school prospect. Because of this most recent allegation, Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich have been put on administrative leave.

Louisville certainly isn’t the only program to have committed these fouls nor is it the only one that will feel the repercussions from this investigation. According to ESPN, the investigation has turned its head to Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball Program. The program itself is not named in the case; however, former program director Merl Code is a defendant in the case.

While more and more details emerge from this investigation, one thing is true: this is a damning case of corruption that spreads throughout all of College Basketball.  The changes and outcomes of this case will shape the way youth basketball will be structured from here on out and will change college athletics forever. Time will only tell if these changes will do enough and have the ability to make a lasting impact on the corruption of college athletics; or if the NCAA will end up back in the place it is fiveyears from now.