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IOWA CITY — Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery didn’t hesitate Monday when asked if he had ever called the NCAA with information about what he felt were recruiting violations by other programs.
“What you can do is when you know something is going on, turn that team in,” McCaffery said at his team’s annual Media Day at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “Who does that? Not a lot of people do that. I do it. I’ve turned programs in, and I’ll continue to do that when I know that there’s stuff going on.”
McCaffery didn’t specify the who, when, what or where. That would have kept him in the news from now until the next Final Four, whether his team made it that far or not. But you don’t hear many coaches publicly stating they have called the NCAA to report wrongdoing.
On Sept. 26, the FBI announced four assistant coaches of major men’s basketball programs — Arizona, Auburn, Oklahoma State and Southern California — were among 10 people facing federal charges in New York’s District Court from an investigation into fraud and corruption involving the recruitment of players.
The University of Louisville acknowledged it was part of the investigation. Monday, the school fired head coach Rick Pitino. ESPN had reported his program is accused of paying a prospective player $100,000 to sign with the Cardinals.
Monday, McCaffery said “But a lot of times you don’t know what’s going on. Can you police yourselves? Only if you know something is going on, but even then it’s hard for the NCAA to do something.
“(The NCAA is) interested in getting to the bottom of it. But they can’t wiretap your phone. They can’t run a sting operation. They can’t have insiders. So maybe this is a game-changer with regard to the FBI’s involvement.”
The common view of college basketball recruiting is that there is and always has been cheating going on. Not everybody, not everywhere. But cheating in college recruiting is as old as, well, college recruiting.
Not to justify it, but why wouldn’t there be? When so many different people stand to gain something from a player choosing School X, Y or Z, someone’s going to try to make bank.
It might be a high school player or his family, who don’t understand how a free market can deny the player from getting paid handsomely for skills that clearly are in high demand and make other people money.
It might be a coach who knows whatever he gives a recruit can come back tenfold if that player helps them to basketball glories.
It might be an agent, who tries to build a relationship with a young player in order to have that player’s trust when it comes time to turn pro. It might be an athletic apparel company representative, trying to do likewise.
If you think every name-player who has passed through college gyms was there strictly for the college experience ... just kidding. You don’t.
But there are coaches who will swear under oath that they’re pure. They may feel like they’re taking knives to gunfights sometimes. But they also have to feel better about life when they hear the FBI had been running a 3-year-long investigation of their sport.
“In many respects, everybody panicked when they first heard about it,” McCaffery said. “I think they thought that everything is wrong with everything, and that’s just not the case. There’s some isolated cases. Maybe there’s more to come, we don’t know.
“Anytime the game is cleaned up, it’s better for all of us. We do things the right way. We do things a certain way. We have a certain expectation here as to how we’re going to react day in and day out and how my staff is going to function. So hopefully moving forward they’ll find whoever was guilty of those transgressions and react accordingly.
“We’re just going to be business as usual here. Nothing changes for us.”
Coaches know what’s going on out there. Maybe it’s a free Happy Meal from a fast-food counterperson to a player. Maybe it’s a lot more. Coaches know.
“Have you ever veered away from recruits because of —”
“Every day,” McCaffery said, not needing the question to be completed.