Gary Williams speaks at the dedication of Maryland’s Cole Field House indoor practice facility in August. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Gary Williams isn’t surprised by the latest revelations in the FBI’s ongoing investigation into illegal recruiting in college basketball, but the legendary Maryland coach recently admitted he hasn’t seen anything quite like this. He also said he regrets not doing more to call attention to the problem during his coaching days.

“I feel disappointed in myself, because I knew this stuff was going on for a long time, and I never really was vocal enough,” Williams said on this week’s Basketball Coaches DC Podcast. “I got criticized a lot in terms of recruiting because [I] didn’t get a certain player, but I should’ve been more forceful in my response to that, because coaches know when certain coaches are doing things they shouldn’t be doing.”

The episode was recorded in the wake of reports that current and former players at more than 20 Division I schools received impermissible benefits, and that Arizona Coach Sean Miller discussed a $100,000 bribe to land star recruit Deandre Ayton.

Williams has discussed cheating in college basketball before. In 2009, after a three-part series in The Washington Post examined Maryland’s recruiting struggles, including Williams’s refusal to deal with influential power brokers on the AAU scene responsible for steering players to certain schools, Williams told a local radio station there was more cheating going on in the sport than he had seen in his 31 years as a head coach.

“I’m a little concerned,” Williams said then about the state of college basketball. “I don’t want to sound like the old head, like things aren’t the way they used to be, but something has got to be done. Because you look at the teams this year that were very successful, a couple of them have been outed for what they did. And next year, when it comes time for college basketball to start again, they’ll talk about certain coaches as being great recruiters that I know cheat, you know? And I could be a great recruiter if I was giving kids money, or if I was changing grades on a kid, I’d be a great recruiter, but that’s where it is right now.”

On this week’s podcast — hosted by Chris Knoche, the former American University men’s basketball coach and current Terps basketball radio analyst — Williams reiterated that pay-for-play cheating in college basketball isn’t a recent phenomenon.

“I get a kick out of people that say, ‘Wow,’ like it just happened,” Williams said. “It’s been going on for as long as I was in coaching. I think it really started when the money came into the game, really when Magic and Bird played against each other in the NCAA championship in Salt Lake in ’79. People realized you could really sell college basketball. ESPN came in at the same time and put everything, all the games on, and made the Big East Conference. All those things took place right around the same time. Any time there’s money to be made, you know how that goes.”

Williams, who retired in 2011, recalled not being permitted to talk to Kevin Durant when the Seat Pleasant native transferred to Montrose Christian in Rockville before his senior year of high school, because Texas had arranged for him to go there.

“You basically weren’t allowed to talk to Durant,” Williams said of the Golden State Warriors star, who played one year at Texas before declaring for the NBA draft. “You couldn’t talk to him. … That happens all the time. Schools put guys [in a prep school], and it’s usually to get grades. In other words, Durant’s been at a couple of high schools and he probably wasn’t qualified yet to go [to college], so he went to Montrose Christian and they did a good job of making sure he got the grades. There’s prep schools all through New England that do that. … There’s a lot of prep schools around that do that, and that’s just part of the deal.”

Williams said fixing the problem starts with eliminating the NBA’s one-and-done rule, which prohibits players from entering the draft before they’re 19 and at least one year removed from high school. He also suggested it’s time for the NCAA’s power conferences to figure out a way to pay football and basketball players, and to police recruiting on their own.

“The NCAA can do all the Olympic sports, but football and men’s basketball, the power conferences have to run that themselves, because they’ll police that, they’ll monitor it,” Williams said. “Obviously the NCAA can’t do it. They’ve proven it time after time after time that they can’t monitor anything. We’re talking, say, 75 teams that should be able to handle things themselves, have their own rules, pay the players if they want to, just do it that way. For so long, the NCAA kept telling you that a field hockey player should be treated the same as a guy who’s going to be a first-round pick in the lottery. Who’s kidding who? Let’s get serious: This is 2018.”

Thanks to Inside Maryland Sports for sharing.

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