DANNY ONEIL

Feds wasting time (and your money) on college hoops

Feb 23, 2018, 10:33 AM | Updated: 12:14 pm
The dolt pictured above is Mark Emmert, former president of the University of Washington who is pre...
The dolt pictured above is Mark Emmert, former president of the University of Washington who is president of the NCAA, which deserves to be investigated by the FBI. Instead it's being propped up by an FBI investigation. (AP)
(AP)

Markelle Fultz received $10,000 from a basketball agent he didn’t end up hiring.

That allegation is included among Yahoo! Sports’ sneak peek at the FBI’s “Big Giant Super Huge Basketball Corruption Case” which is currently looming like an anvil over college hoops.

O’Neil: Of course the NCAA uses the most ineffective, toothless sanctions

I’m actually surprised by this. Seriously. I’m shocked that it was so little, and while I am at least marginally worried about the potential implications for the University of Washington, I also believe that this FBI investigation is one big waste of resources that serves to protect exactly one entity: the NCAA.

And the NCAA is a four-letter institution that deserves to be on the crispy end of a flamethrower. Instead, it’s getting what amounts to federal support enforcing its outdated rules.

But we’re getting ahead of things here.

Let’s start with the basics of what we know. Dating back to last year, the FBI has been investigating college basketball recruiting, which has been notoriously seedy throughout my entire life. Actually, it has been seedy before I was born.

The only thing that has changed over the past 50 years is the volume of money involved and the source of that money.

Forty or 50 years ago, school pride was the impetus behind most cheating in college athletics. Well-heeled boosters paid players to improve State U’s results on the court. Now, the money is too big to rely on rich alumni. The cash now comes from the shoe companies who sponsor the schools and pro basketball agents who want to represent the players, and that’s the web that the FBI is currently exploring.

Honestly, I think the results will be fascinating if only to see who has been paying what. But my personal reading interests are not a good measure of whether the college destinations of teenage hoops prodigies is a worthwhile use of the resources and power of federal law enforcement.

I’m not just saying that there are bigger crimes the FBI should be worried about. I’m saying there are actual crimes the FBI should be worried about and while I understand why Fultz getting $10,000 from some agent who thinks he’s slick would be against NCAA rules, but I can’t for the life of me understand why that’s illegal in the first place let alone so serious it merits federal oversight.

And for all the big, intimidating words like “bribery” and “corruption” and “scandal” I’m having a real hard time finding the victim here. Who are we trying to protect?

Is it the agent, Andy Miller, who’s said to have given Fultz $10,000 and didn’t even wind up representing him when he turned pro? Because a guy who’s willing to give $10,000 to a teenager without the ability to sign a binding contract is a guy who deserves to lose that $10,000 in my book.

Is it a tax evasion issue? Well, that’s probably technically true, but that doesn’t seem to be the main thrust of the case because the folks arrested so far have been assistant coaches with basketball programs.

Is it the basketball agents that the feds want? Not that anyone would mind that as I think “sports agent” might be the only profession in the country that’s below both “lawyer” and “media” in terms of public-approval rating, but so far it’s just this Miller guy that’s been mentioned and he has never been regarded as some pillar of decency in the basketball world.

Are we protecting the kids? Not really when you consider that the developmental path for an aspiring professional basketball player in this country essentially requires he spend a year on a college campus – subject to the rules of the NCAA – before he can enter the NBA.

There’s only one institution that’s being protected by this investigation: that’s the NCAA and by extension the schools it purports to govern. That is not an institution that deserves to be protected. Certainly not by federal law enforcement.

In fact, that’s the institution that should be investigated and a cartel that deserves to be broken up or at least reformed.

As for Fultz, it always seemed kind of odd that a kid from Maryland who was billed a top-three pick while being recruited ended up signing with Washington. And while I would like to point out that his arrival resulted in exactly two conference victories as a mitigating factor in any potential punishment, I also remember Jesus Montero getting suspended for performance-enhancing drugs, which shows that you don’t need to be successful when cheating to get punished for the act of cheating.

All that said, I simply don’t understand why that would be any concern of federal law enforcement.

Can you spot the problem?

The headline is technically correct. Darnold’s “intangibles” would be “off the charts.” That’s because all intangibles are “off the charts.” That’s because “intangibles” – by definition – can’t be charted. According to The American Heritage College dictionary, an intangible is “incapable of being perceived by the senses.” Think about that whenever you hear someone try to quantify the intangibles of a player.

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Feds wasting time (and your money) on college hoops