This is what passes for a story in college basketball. This is what passes for news. This irrelevant dung heap, this pile of nothing, involving Kansas coach Bill Self and the top recruit from the class of 2009, point guard John Wall.
This is big.
That was sarcasm.
If you've heard about it, congratulations. You've already had several seconds of your life wasted. If you've not heard, pull up a chair and see what your friends are talking about. And they are talking about it. Why? Because there's nothing else to talk about. Because college basketball is full of cheating and cheaters, and since we can't find them, we'll do the next best thing and bust Bill Self for his inappropriate contact with John Wall.
That's all this non-story is about. Inappropriate contact. This becoming the year's biggest recruiting scandal reminds me of the movie The Firm, where the feds bring down the mob on mail fraud. They can't prove murder, but they found an envelope with a stamp on it, and that envelope crossed state lines. So there's the crime. Mail fraud. The movie ends, and I'm pissed. I'm thinking, mail fraud?
Soon this movie in Kansas will end, but already I'm pissed. I'm thinking, inappropriate contact? This is nothing, not compared to the real live rule breaking, and even permissible cheating, that goes on in college basketball.
Understand one thing right now. The comparison between Kansas and The Firm doesn't extend to the obvious guilt between the so-called bad guys. The mob was definitely dirty in that movie. Bill Self? Not definitely dirty. Honestly I have no idea.
But I do know this:
Inappropriate conduct is a big pile of dung. If that's the best we can do, as a gotcha society, to bust a basketball coach, then why bother? Inappropriate conduct? Are you kidding? The Big 12 is the same league that allowed several coaches to hire men for the sole purpose of delivering a recruit. Baylor -- another finalist for John Wall -- hired one of his AAU coaches last year. Self hired Mario Chalmers' father before landing Chalmers, a McDonald's All-American now in the NBA. Kansas State let Bob Huggins hire Delonte Hill for the sole purpose of signing Hill's buddy, Michael Beasley. That's just one conference, and those moves were all allowed. They were legal.
A recruit out West who ended up in the Pac-10 a few years ago charged schools $10,000 just to get him on campus for an official visit. I know the kid's name -- he's in the NBA now -- and I know the school he chose, but I don't have it nailed down to the point where I can fill in those blanks for you, and odds are good that I never will. Several coaches have told me about the $10,000 price tag, including one coach who told me he turned that offer down, but there is no proof. Do I believe it? Absolutely. Can I prove it? Absolutely not. Not without one of the coaches' help, and that'll never happen.
Whistle blowers don't advance in college sports. They are run out of the game. A rising star assistant at Iowa named Bruce Pearl turned in Illinois for cheating in 1989, and he was out of Division I for nine years before finally getting hired by UW-Milwaukee. Even now, after almost two decades, he is viewed as a traitorous rat by Illini nation.
The Baylor assistant who pulled the plug on Dave Bliss' vile coaching regime hasn't coached since. Not enough integrity? No, that guy -- Abar Rouse -- has too much integrity. He can't be trusted in college sports. Every head coach in the game is thinking, "The next guy he throws under the bus might be me." So Rouse is out.
So this is what happens. Instantly recognizable Bill Self shows up in the hallway of a high school gym in Springfield, Mo. He conveniently runs into Wall, whose team has just played. Self tells him something like "good game." The exchange is caught by a reporter, who writes it -- and all hell breaks loose, because this was an NCAA evaluation period, meaning no contact other than a brief "hello" is allowed between coaches and recruits.
I'm not faulting the Springfield News-Leader reporter at all. He saw what he saw, called a compliance official at another school for an interpretation, and wrote about it. That's what reporters do. He did well.
But everyone else ...
Everyone else sucks.
This is not a scandal, OK? It's interesting, sure. Wall is being compared to Derrick Rose. Wherever he plays next season, that school becomes a Final Four contender. And if that school already is a Final Four contender, well, now it's a national championship favorite. Wall is that good. So this story is interesting.
But it's not scandalous. It's not worth the Internet screaming and message-board shrieking it has generated. It's not a kid with awful high school academics getting his transcript scrubbed clean in time for college, which will happen 50 times between now and next season. It's not a summer coach or ambitious uncle pocketing enough cash to buy a new car in exchange for a recruit's signed Letter Of Intent, which will happen at least 10 times between now and next season.
It's not even this story here, which I've never written before. Again, I'm leaving the names out for a variety of reasons, mainly because it's the right thing to do journalistically. Here you go. Sit down.
Cusefan8796: If Doyel's investiagation is correct, and he knows the cheating is going on, he should welcome a lawsuit. That will get all the info out into open court. If he really wants to make a difference then go to court, deal with the headaches. If not, quit complaining about cheating.
|Gregg Doyel: How noble of you, Cusefan8796. And would you pay my attorney's fees and the, oh, $50 million judgement I'd lose if I couldn't convince other coaches, who are scared to even whisper this stuff, to say it in a court of law?|
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This happened at a restaurant at the 2007 Final Four, at a meal including 20 people, most of them coaches, a few of them NBA scouts, and me. A coach with a Final Four on his resume, a coach who has no idea I'm there, loudly accuses another coach of stealing a recruit. Better than that, this coach says he was out-cheated by the other guy -- who also has a Final Four on his resume.
"I thought I had that deal all locked up," this coach said. "But then (name withheld) comes in, does his thing, and it's over. I'll never recruit against (him) again."
It was shocking. Appalling. And I've told the NCAA about it.
Yes, I have.
If you don't like that, tough. I've had several talks with the NCAA about the cheating I think, I know, is going on. I've called them. They've called me. Not sure anything has come of any of my tips, but maybe some day. That's my hope.
And this is my promise:
I will never tell the NCAA about inappropriate contact between a coach and a recruit. That's not murder. That's mail fraud.