Bribery by NCAA Schools a Black Eye for Academe
“Adidas Gate” Makes a Mockery of Collegiate Sports Ethics
I have previously blogged about sports ethics and how colleges and universities are becoming increasingly involved in highly questionable, if not unethical, actions that tarnish the reputation of collegiate sports.
A few years ago, it was disclosed that for 18 years, collegiate athletes at the University of North Carolina took fake "paper classes," and advisers funneled athletes into the program to keep them eligible. The goal was to keep student athletes eligible so that the sports programs would be winners and lead to a great deal of notoriety for UNC, not to mention lots of advertising money and memorabilia sales. “Tar heel Gate” left many colleges professors like myself shaking our heads in bewilderment over how such a prestigious university could knowingly set aside all academic standards in the name of getting millions of dollars from their athletes’ participation in sports like basketball and football.
Now comes “Adidas Gate,” a pay to play-type scandal revealed this week when it was announced that 10 men – including four assistant coaches and a top Adidas executive – were charged with crimes including bribery and fraud as part of a wide-ranging federal investigation into corruption in the sport.
Criminal charges were filed against James Gatto, Adidas’s Director of Global Sports Marketing, for allegedly paying highly-recruited high school basketball players and their families through third-party intermediaries to attend schools with Adidas shoe contracts. Prosecutors also alleged financial advisers and agents paid bribes to assistant coaches with hopes of securing college stars as clients after they enter the NBA.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the assistant coaches charged include: Assistant coach Anthony Bland from USC; Lamont Evans from Oklahoma State, who solicited at least $22,000 over the last two years; Emanuel “Book” Richardson from Arizona, who was paid $20,000 bribes; and Auburn’s Chuck Pearson, who played 13 seasons in the NBA, was charged with receiving tens of thousands of dollars in return for steering student-athletes to a financial adviser.
The cash bribes came from a sports agent, Christian Dawkins, and was facilitated by Munish Sood, a financial adviser. In the most egregious case, Dawkins and Sood were charged for their role in the alleged scheme to lure top recruit Brian Bowen to Louisville University. Bowen had prepared a list of schools where he preferred to pay and Louisville wasn’t high on it. After making payments totaling $100,000 to Bowne’s family, the recruit committed to Louisville. Louisville coach, Rick Pitino, feigned surprise over the charges but was forced out by Greg Postel, the interim president of Louisville, because of violations of NCAA rules and related ethical lapses.
What was the response of the NCAA? Mark Emmert, president of the NCAA, is quoted in the Wall Street Journal article as saying, the charges are “deeply disturbing.” You think?
Emmert went on to say the NCAA would support the continuing federal investigation. I do agree with his assessment that “Coaches hold a unique position of trust with student-athletes and their families and these bribery allegations, if true, suggest an extraordinary and despicable breach of trust.”
The big business of NCAA endorsement deals, shoe contracts, and revenue from the sale of products has gotten out of hand, not to mention huge revenue from television rights. The demands on players time and commitment have led them to seek payment for their services as if they were professionals. Perhaps they are, at least in the minds of shoe companies like Adidas and sports agents who will sell their souls for a piece of the large NCAA/player endorsement pie.
The NCCA should act right now and prohibit any new agreements between NCCA schools and Adidas pending the completion of the investigation. We can say let’s wait for the investigation to be completed, but that may take a long time. Moreover, where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. If it was one school involved, patience might be the proper path. For me, in all likelihood there are more schools involved that haven’t been identified as yet. It’s time for the NCAA to take a proactive ethical position, not wait for another shoe to drop.
Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, is a Professor Emeritus from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Steve now blogs about ethical issues in academe at http://www.higheredethicswatch.com/.
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