FBI investigation main topic of Pac-12 media day
SAN FRANCISCO — The usual pomp and circumstance of Pac-12 men’s basketball media day had a cloud hanging over it.
Media days are usually a time for coaches to talk about how excited they are for the upcoming season, praise the improvement of players in the offseason and tell everybody how they’re overrated or underrated, depending on where they are in the media poll.
But on Thursday, Pac-12 coaches and conference commissioner Larry Scott were asked questions regarding an FBI investigation into NCAA recruiting that was made public in late September. The investigation regards fraud and corruption in recruiting connected to coaches, agents and shoe companies.
Arizona’s Emanuel Richardson and USC’s Tony Bland were two assistant coaches charged in the investigation.
Arizona and USC also happen to be the teams picked to finish first and second in the Pac-12, respectively. But as one would imagine, the questions they were asked on Thursday were not about the talent on their teams, they were about the investigation.
“I know you have a job to do, and I respect that,” USC heach coach Andy Enfield said, addressing the media. “You guys are great — for the most part you’re great — but hopefully you have an understanding where I just can’t say things like that.”
Most of the responses from Enfield and Arizona head coach Sean Miller were along those lines. It was much simpler from Miller.
“I’m going to stand by the statement that I gave,” Miller said in regards to a statement he made earlier in the month.
He repeated that line multiple times.
Other than Richardson and Bland, no other Pac-12 coach has been publicly indicated in the investigation. But given that it could be an institutional shattering investigation, even other coaches spent significant time talking about it.
Oregon coach Dana Altman, coming off a Pac-12 championship and an appearance in the Final Four, took the podium where only three reporters, including myself, approached him for questions.
In contrast, Enfield’s and Miller’s podium was surrounded by reporters.
Coaches who had not been named in the investigation seemed ready to talk about the issue and why the recruiting system is broken.
Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle thinks that college basketball would benefit from players being allowed to go straight to the NBA.
“You know, if someone feels they’re good enough and they’re ready to go right from high school, let’s let them go,” Tinkle said. “If you go to college, I like the three-year commitment.”
Scott spent an extensive amount of time on the subject. The Pac-12 is creating a task force to help fix the problem. The goals were vague, not a lot of specifics on how it would solve the problem were given, but it is meant to help.
The investigation opened a door to conversations on recruiting and amateurism as a whole. Many argue for a free-market system, stating that the current system makes players a “black market” commodity.
For Scott, the investigation has reconfirmed his belief in the current model.
“We do not want student-athletes coming to our schools to earn a living,” Scott said. “We want them to learn the skills and get the education and have the platform so that they can earn a living and be successful in life afterward. So it’s a pathway, not a destination.”
Follow Jack Butler on Twitter @Butler917
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