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Corruption allegations have NCAA under FBI investigation

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With the nationally televised March Madness tournament beginning today, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) will be drawing a lot of attention over the next few weeks. However, the NCAA has also been drawing attention off the court, for the organization is in the midst of an investigation by the FBI into corruption allegations against them.

The case first took the spotlight in September when numerous college coaches and sneaker company executives were arrested for rigging the recruiting process by using the influence of the companies that sponsor the teams to entice high school prospects. Despite its high level of popularity, this investigation could have harmful effects on the upcoming tournament and the NCAA as a whole.

“I think there is definitely corruption in the NCAA,” junior and college basketball fan Randall Bohnert said. “That’s why the FBI is involved, but the things happening with [the scandal] probably won’t affect March Madness much. People are still going to watch, that’s just the way it is.”

A key target of the investigation is Louisville University, and more specifically former Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino. Pitino, who was in his seventeenth year as the team’s head coach before being fired by the university on October 16, is accused of being a collaborator in a transaction that sent $100,000 from Adidas, a sponsor of Louisville, to the family of recruit Brian Bowen.

Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich was also fired because of this. While neither Pitino or the university have been formally prosecuted yet, there is no questioning that the reputation of the school has been tarnished to some degree. “I think bribing athletes to come and join your program is pretty low,” junior and college basketball fan Anthony Draghi said. “Rick Pitino claims he wasn’t aware of it, however, this is not the first time Louisville has been caught in a wrongdoing. It wouldn’t shock me if he did pay the athletes bribes.”

While these corruption allegations may be crippling for universities and the NCAA as a whole, it could be some of the players that get punished. Yahoo Sports recently released a document containing the names of people involved in the FBI investigation, and a number of these names were those of current and former NCAA players. College stars such as Wendell Carter of Duke, Miles Bridges of Michigan State and Collin Sexton of Alabama were all mentioned as players who may have accepted bribes.

While it was the colleges and their sponsors that issued these bribes, these allegations could have an effect on these player’s eligibility to play. In addition, current NBA players such as Dennis Smith, Jr. of the Dallas Mavericks, Isaiah Whitehead of the Brooklyn Nets and former first overall pick Markelle Fultz of the Philadelphia 76ers were also alleged to have received bribes from their respective universities while attending.

Varsity athletes at the school have been registering their opinions on the issue. A good number of them wish to play for the NCAA when they graduate, so these actions and policies of colleges are things that the students must take into account.

“[College athletes] shouldn’t be paid this way,” junior wrestler Greg Curtain said. “They should be able to get full ride scholarships, which is similar to getting paid but not the same thing.”

The final results of the investigation remain to be seen, but the seriousness of the ongoing probe into the corruption of collegiate athletics has people demanding some kind of reform, the most popular being to pay the players legally. The premise behind this is that the level of bribery in the NCAA would go down, and it would encourage more high-level college athletes to stay in school longer than one or two years, which is what some of these athletes do before going to the National Basketball Association (NBA).

In any case, whatever the result of this investigation may be, the FBI’s intervention has brought to light some critical flaws in the NCAA system. “The NCAA needs to be held more accountable for the problems with recruitment going on,” senior basketball player Matt Deily said.

“Part of the issue is getting paid, but beyond that I think some schools can get away with a lot when it comes to making academic life incredibly easy for student athletes. The NCAA needs to fix a lot of things and care about more than its brand.”   

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Corruption allegations have NCAA under FBI investigation