A few were found guilty, many looked bad, but nothing has changed after college basketball's bribery trials
The bombshells we were warned about never materialized, so why should we expect the sport to change?
In September 2017, after 10 men connected to college basketball were charged with felonies, Joon Kim, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, stood in front of television cameras and presented himself as a person on the verge of wrecking the sport and some of its biggest programs.
"We have your playbook," Kim famously said. "Our investigation is ongoing."
It was supposed to be the start of something big.
Turns out, it wasn't.
And the idea that Kim actually suggested coaches involved in wrongdoing would be wise to fess up because, as he put it, "it's better for you to be calling us than for us to be calling you" is, with the benefit of hindsight, LOL hilarious. Only a fool would've made that call. Because here we are, nearly two years later, with the final verdicts in and zero additional trials on the docket, and it's undeniable that the government overpromised and underdelivered. Yes,of federal crimes. But unless you're Dawkins or Code, or somebody who knows and loves Dawkins or Code, that probably doesn't matter to you even a little bit -- which was always the unusual thing about this trial, how the verdict didn't really matter. I mean, who cares if two people nobody outside of college basketball had ever heard of a day before they were arrested will now get a few extra months or years behind bars? I know I don't. In reality, the only interesting thing about this trial, or the first trial, was the possibility that testimony and evidence presented might expose programs and the people who run them -- which they kind of did but mostly didn't. And don't even get me started on Dawkins' attorney, Steve Haney, promising pre-trial to "pull back the curtains" on college basketball. Because his client had a chance to do it, at least to some degree, after the guilty verdict but instead chose not to.
"I'm not going to put [Arizona coach Sean Miller] in a position that could hurt him," Dawkins told the Arizona Daily Star on Wednesday. "It's just too sensitive for me. I don't care that much. I don't want him to lose his job."
That's like the opposite of pulling back curtains.
To be clear, Dawkins still didn't do Miller any real favors. Last Friday, you might remember, Dawkins was asked twice while on the stand whether Miller knew Arizona players were being paid. The government objected both times before Dawkins answered -- and Judge Edgardo Ramos sustained each objection. So Dawkins never answered. But on Wednesday, he was asked what he would've said if he had been allowed to answer that question.
"I'm not going to answer that," Dawkins replied. "Because this is the thing: I don't see nothing wrong with it so I'm not gonna throw nobody under the bus for something that I agree with."
Obviously, if Dawkins' answer to a question about whether Miller knew Arizona players were being paid equated to a defense of Miller, he would've just answered that way. Instead, Dawkins said he wouldn't answer the question because he didn't want to "throw nobody under a bus" and because he sees "nothing wrong with" paying players and because he doesn't want Miller "to lose his job."
Make of that what you will.
And also understand this: It'll be surprising, all things considered, if the NCAA doesn't eventually hit Arizona hard, perhaps harder than any other program, because, at the very least, this trial produced recordings of former Arizona assistant Book Richardson admitting to buying prospects for the Wildcats and Kansas, and it's impossible for any sensible person to believe Ayton went to Arizona for nothing more than a scholarship and stipend. You can acknowledge as much, right? If so, what you're acknowledging is that Arizona cheated to get Ayton -- and, for what it's worth, two different people, one of whom was Miller's longtime assistant, have both said Miller was directly involved.-- specifically in the cases of Deandre Ayton and Rawle Alkins. Combine all that with the fact that former Adidas consultant TJ Gassnola previously testified that he was trying to buy Ayton for
Can Sean Miller survive that?
Perhaps -- as long as he continues to deny it, insists Richardson and Dawkins are simply incorrect, and avoids being exposed by further corroborations or evidence. But, at minimum, it appears the NCAA will have enough to discipline and suspend Miller under NCAA bylaw 18.104.22.168 -- which states head coaches are responsible for the actions of their direct and indirect reports unless they can rebut the presumption of responsibility by proving they actively monitored their reports in an effort to abide by NCAA rules. So what Arizona must now decide is whether it wants to wait for, and deal with, that. Obviously, such is up to Arizona. But it's telling, and a reflection of the people running that institution, that Miller has a better chance of surviving all of this than he would have of surviving something like missing the NCAA Tournament three straight years. He would be bought out of his contract for losing with no hesitation. But Miller's assistant for roughly a decade being caught on a recording saying that Miller was paying $10,000 a month for a five-star center (who was clearly bought by somebody) might not be enough to push Arizona officials in that same direction -- especially when Miller has the nation's top-ranked recruiting class on the way.
It's strange but unsurprising.
It's college basketball, I guess.
Either way, what a letdown. This scandal started with a bang -- with arrests, the hint that more were on the way and a high-powered government official talking about knowing playbooks and exposing underbellies. It was a fascinating press conference. But now everything is over without any additional arrests ever being made. And, yeah, Kansas looks bad. And LSU coach Will Wade is stained. And a handful of assistants barely anybody knows have been convicted and/or fired. But the carnage so many predicted just never materialized. The government simply did not do what it said it could and would do because all it really did is get guilty verdicts and pleas for Christian Dawkins, Merl Code and a few other people who don't really matter at all.
Again, who cares?
In hindsight, this just seems like a big waste of time.
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