CBS Sports college basketball writers Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander surveyed more than 100 coaches for our annual Candid Coaches series. They polled everyone from head coaches at elite programs to assistants at some of the smallest Division I schools. In exchange for complete anonymity, the coaches provided unfiltered honesty about a number of topics in the sport. Over the next couple of weeks, we'll be posting the results on 10 questions we asked them.
The FBI investigation that led to the arrest of four college basketball assistants last September is ongoing and, I think, far from over. But, to date, no additional coaches have been charged. And, to date, the lone head coach to lose his job is Rick Pitino. So things clearly haven't unfolded the way many initially predicted they would.
That doesn't mean there's not more to come, of course. It just means there hasn't been more yet.
Regardless, it would be silly to suggest the investigation hasn't had an impact on the sport. Some coaches have been scared straight. Not all. But definitely some. So we decided to ask more than 100 college coaches the following question:
Has the FBI's investigation significantly reduced cheating in the past 10 months?
Quotes that stood out
- "I don't think the investigation has any effect on what goes on in college basketball. At the end of the day, guys are going to do what they want to do until they caught. I'm not one of those guys that says, 'That guy cheats, that guy cheats.' I don't know. I don't assume. The FBI scared some parents off to some schools. But it's not going to change some idiot kids or some idiot parents. It didn't change the cheating -- it changed the way people ask for things. I just don't think it changes, it just made us all have to have a mandatory meeting with your general counsel, and if you had any Adidas contacts in your phone log, they want to know why. People are going to do what they've been doing in the past, whatever that is, but it's not going to change what people around those kids want."
- "I would have to think that it has. I mean, if nothing else, just the whole unknown element of everything has had people walking on eggshells and to re-evaluate what and how they are doing things. While most low- and mid-majors haven't been involved in things to the extent of the FBI investigation, we all have gray areas we exploit and just the fear of being caught up in the scandal I think has caused everyone to tighten their ship."
- "I believe [some] programs benefitted and stole a player or two when the news first broke [because other programs that might've previously cheated weren't]. But, as the investigation stalls out, the Wild West will continue, if not become more calculated."
- "Hard to say for sure but I think so. I think the biggest factor is fear. A lot of the guys that were cheating always knew they had to watch out for the NCAA or it could impact their career. But I don't think ANYONE knew they could go to jail. These guys have families they don't want to lose. "
- "Yes, it reduced cheating, but only because of the one-time shock-and-fear factor. As time passes and the investigation comes to NO end, it will only make it easier for those comfortable operating out of bounds to continue to do so."
- "Coaches are just being more careful now. More burner phones now. Lol."
- "I think that it has forced those that cheat to cheat in a different manner. I am guessing that most people are going back to the 'old school' methods of one-on-one cheating. What I mean by that is: School A goes directly to the kid and his people and deliver the cash directly to them. Eliminate the middle men."
- "I would hope and think so. Dudes getting arrested and losing their high-paying jobs, not to mention wire taps and surveillance. If that doesn't reduce it, not sure what will."
- I think there was an initial scare that had some short term impact. However, those looking to take short cuts have not significantly changed their ways. They have just become more cautious. Until there are major consequences across the board, widespread change won't occur."
- "I'm not sure if its reduced it at all, to be honest. But it's definitely made people more cautious about what they do and who they deal with."
- "The investigation temporarily slowed it down. Didn't stop it. And if things don't drastically change, it will slowly go back to where it was. People will get comfortable again."
Coaches, as you can see, were all over the place on this question. Lots of them believe the FBI investigation has significantly reduced the amount of cheating in college basketball. But even more don't think so at all. And I was honestly surprised by that -- although it's possible the way each man answered this question directly correlates with how he defines the word "significant."
Why was I surprised?
Basically because it's reasonable to assume, if nothing else, shoe company executives have calmed to the point where they can't possibly be paying a family $100,000 to enroll at a school like Adidas allegedly paid Brian Bowen's family to ensure the five-star prospect enrolled at Louisville -- not with former Adidas employees Jim Gatto and Merl Code facing federal charges. And I know, just from talking to coaches off the record, that some have been, at least temporarily, scared straight. Everybody is more careful with their phones. Everybody is more careful with their impermissible contacts. I don't know if those things alone constitute a "significant" reduction in cheating. But, undeniably, there has been a reduction to some degree.
That said, what multiple coaches told us is exactly right. The longer this investigation goes on with zero additional university employees being indicted, and with every head coach who had a staff member indicted still employed and making millions of dollars annually, the more likely it is for things to revert to business as usual. And, ultimately, that's where we're headed. As I've said and written many times, high-level prospective student-athletes are just worth too much money to too many people -- most notably college basketball coaches who need them to secure contract extensions. Somebody is always going to be willing to do whatever it takes to enroll them. So, yeah, I do think the initial indictments shook the sport and reduced cheating significantly. But, with every passing day, just like multiple coaches said, the rule-breakers will get a little more comfortable and start rule-breaking again.
The reward has always outweighed the risk.
And that remains true today.
CBS Sports' Candid Coaches series for college basketball
CBS Sports' Candid Coaches series for college football