TOM DAVIS: In college athletics, ‘greed is good’ and always will be

Auburn University men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl points at Auburn fans before a game earlier this season in Columbia, S.C. The Tiger program is immersed in scandal, as it relates to an on-going FBI investigation into corruption in college athletics. (By The Associated Press)

At the core of the reported and alleged corruption of the sport of college basketball is the undeniable fact that greed will almost always prevail and there isn’t anything that can be done to control that.

Yahoo Sports reported specific details Friday regarding an FBI investigation that ethics were breached and rules violated by some of the most prominent universities, coaches and athletes in the sport.

Some mentioned were shocking: Notre Dame, being the one to really hit home in this state. While others not so much (if you have worked in this industry and have cast a large enough network of sources for any length of time): Xavier, Duke, North Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, Michigan State, USC, among others.

The perception being held by many is that this investigation will carry long-term ramifications, but those closest to the investigation are skeptical.

One Power 5 head coach, whose program is involved in the investigation, said “I’ll believe it when I see it,” as it pertains to programs getting severely punished.

He may be correct in that assessment because when it comes to the enforcement of ethical behavior, it falls somewhere down the ladder beneath victories, and most importantly, finances.

All of the coaches, athletes, agents and universities – truth be told – have no interest in slowing their unquenchable thirst for cash.

The student-athletes involved in this investigation are much the same as their predecessors, as well as those that will come after them. No amount of benefit is ever enough. Nothing is ever enough for those involved in intercollegiate athletics.

Each student-athlete receives a college education, at no cost, that will (it should anyway) benefit them throughout the remainder of their professional lives.

That isn’t enough.

They receive meals, housing, training, health care, travel opportunities, preferred admission, unlimited academic resources, and as much clothing and athletic-related gear as they could ever desire.

It isn’t enough.

The advocates for the student-athletes, as well as the young people themselves, argue that they are entitled to more because the universities are profiting off of their athletic ability, and at the Power 5 level, due to the television revenue dispersed, they have a valid point. But as of today, it is illegal to accept or distribute an impermissible benefit, so don’t.

If you want to change the system and its rules, then do so. But until that time comes, these are the rules and all involved need to follow them.

How do the young people learn this type of selfish behavior? By studying the adults in the room.

The greed exhibited by the student-athletes pales in comparison to the so-called “leaders of young people,” who oversee the athletic programs and universities.

Over the course of the next two months, there will be countless coaches that leave one seven-figure position for another (six figures in regards to assistants), while also pulling scholarships from poor performers, as well as asking high school juniors to “reclassify” and skip a year of their young lives, all in the name of winning more games, thus, making more money.

This gluttony is only surpassed in its repulsiveness by those at the top of the food chain.

A number of university leaders have brazenly shown that nothing will get in the way of maintaining a revenue stream, even if it results in public humiliation.

Earlier this basketball season, Auburn University, whose coach (Bruce Pearl) has already been punished with a “show cause” penalty by the NCAA earlier in his career, had three members of its staff, as well as two players, either suspended or fired as a result of the aforementioned investigation.

Auburn assistant coach Chuck Person was arrested in September and is awaiting trial on six federal charges of bribery conspiracy, solicitation of bribes and gratuities, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and travel act conspiracy.

All of that hadn’t been enough for university president Steven Leath to even discuss the matter as of two months later with Pearl, who refused to meet with his supervisor on the situation.

Leath called that act of defiance “troublesome” in an email to Tiger fans.

Last month, Leath told Yahoo Sports “Bruce and his staff are doing a great job on the court. Clearly, Bruce knows that my expectation is that sooner or later he’s going to have to come in and talk to me and others on campus about what’s going on in the program and we’re moving towards a solution on that, but that is an expectation.”

Pearl has done everything shy of defecating on Leath’s desk and the president is perfectly willing to accept it just as long as those Tigers (23-4 and currently ranked 12th) keep on winning.

Pearl will discuss the matter when he is damn, good, and ready, and not a moment earlier that you can be sure of.

Leath isn’t alone in his cowardly behavior.

The board of trustees at Michigan State University recently extended the contract of 61-year-old Spartan football coach Mark Dantonio (whose deal wasn’t set to expire until 2022), despite the fact that ESPN reported earlier this month that at least 16 of Dantonio’s athletes have faced allegations of sexual assault or violence against women since 2007, his first year in East Lansing.

That number could have been even higher and it wouldn’t have been enough for the Michigan State leadership to have acted any differently.

Dantonio has won 100 games with the Spartans and advanced to 10 bowl games, those are the only numbers of relevance in the sphere of college athletics.

The iconic 1980s movie “Wall Street” and its main character Gordon Gekko, famously branded the line “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”

No industry adheres to that mantra with a firmer grip than those at the highest levels of intercollegiate athletics and a multitude of reports and investigations, sadly, will never change that.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Tom Davis at Tdavis@news-sentinel.com.


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