BALTIMORE — Jay Bilas, men’s college basketball analyst for ESPN, offered stinging remarks about the NCAA and its president, Mark Emmert, on Monday morning prior to moderating a panel discussion about the sport at a charity function.
Bilas’s comments came shortly after Emmert’s assessment of the state of college basketball on the heels of a federal investigation into bribery and other improprieties specific to the sport. Emmert spoke at a Knight Commission meeting in the District.
The most notable fallout from the FBI probe was the the firing of Louisville coach Rick Pitino for his alleged involvement in diverting $100,000 to the family of an unnamed recruit.
“The NCAA makes its own rules, and their rules are bad,” Bilas said. “That’s been pointed out forever, and so for the people in charge and specifically the president of the NCAA to talk about some code of silence in college basketball that people weren’t telling them what was going on, they knew exactly what was going on.
“Now you have the president saying the system is broken. What, he and his staff didn’t know the system was broken two weeks before the charges were filed in this matter? Of course they did. The system’s been broken forever, so that’s disingenuous to say the least.”
Comprising the panel for the annual event benefiting the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation were former Maryland coach Gary Williams along with current coach Mark Turgeon, Villanova Coach Jay Wright, Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey and Siena Coach Jimmy Patsos.
All acknowledged the investigation’s negative impact on their industry and indicated meaningful changes are necessary for the future welfare of the sport.
Williams’s perspective comes six years following his retirement and 15 years after directing the Terrapins to the national championship. Maryland maintained competitive success during Williams’s tenure without running afoul of NCAA rules.
“Now it’s become big business,” said Williams, hired at Maryland in 1989. “Maybe the thing that’ll result from this is that there’ll be a person by the NCAA put in charge of men’s college basketball, of football, for the power conferences because it’s a completely different world there, and for a long time nobody wanted to admit that.
“You know, ‘We treat all our student-athletes the same.’ Well, maybe you can’t do that. Maybe that’s a long ago doctrine.”
Patsos, a former Williams assistant, recalled encounters with former prospects inquiring about inappropriate benefits. He said he would wish them well and move on to another high school player.
“I guess the best thing to come out of this is this is probably going to get cleaned up because this is the FBI,” Patsos said. “This is real deal, man. This isn’t, ‘Oh, Indianapolis is going to be mad at me,’ meaning the NCAA. This is real stuff.”
The investigation also accuses coaches at Auburn, Oklahoma State, Arizona and Southern California of accepting bribes in exchange for offering to steer players to preferred financial advisers, business managers and agents.
In addition, a high-ranking executive at Adidas and two associates are accused of arranging illicit payments for high school standouts and their families to secure athlete commitments to schools sponsored by the footwear and apparel giant.
“This sounds awful, but it’s true. The top 200 players coming out of high school, very few of them are really eligible according to NCAA standards of amateurism, and that’s on amateurism,” Bilas said. “It’s not on those players because what they’re doing is not illegal. It’s not wrong. It violates this NCAA notion of amateurism, which is really a sham.
“This has been going on forever. The money finds a different path all the time, but this is just our latest scandal. We’ll get past this, and then we’ll have another one because the money will find a different path. You are not going to stop billions of dollars from flowing.”