The F.B.I. Cracks Down on College Athletics

Jordan O'Roy, Staff Reporter

As some may now know, there has been a recent discovery of scandals amongst the NCAA Division I men’s basketball teams. This scandal has been mainly targeted around the University of Arizona, where the FBI was able to gather evidence to uncover the basketball scandal that has been going on for years. The FBI used a wiretap in order to intercept cell phone conversations between Arizona Head Coach Sean Miller and Christian Dawkins, who has become a key figure in the FBI’s investigation into the NCAA Division I college basketball corruption. Miller had been discussing a payment of $100,000 to ensure star freshman Deandre Ayton signed with the Wildcats.

To some, this scandal is not a surprise. Division I athletics have power and privileges that you will not see amongst your Division II and Division III schools. Therefore, the abuse of power was bound to happen, as Division I athletics have created a very narrow mindset where they will do anything to win. However, is it really about winning or is it about the money that winning draws in? Senior basketball player Jase Harrison expressed his thoughts on how this scandal may have come to be, especially as we begin to hear about more problems and violations at the Division I level.

“Athletes anywhere bring in money for their school. The better athletes, in this case basketball players, would require more incentives to pick a certain school. They have more to offer. A coach would offer more money to an extraordinary player to ensure that he comes to their school. More wins is equivalent to more money for everyone–including coaches, school, NCAA–but not for that player unless they are ‘illegally paid.’ Doesn’t really seem fair,” Harrison explained.

Similarly in 2016, NBA all star Kevin Durant decided to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder to sign with the Golden State Warriors. Durant’s decision caused a lot of controversy in the NBA as he signed for about $54.3 million dollars over two years with the Warriors who were already a powerhouse team. For some, this destroyed Durant’s reputation as a great player, signifying that sports had become more about money buying teams their way into the championship rather than the competition of the game. Durant’s salary is almost 5 times more than the average $6 million dollars NBA players make, and the Golden State Warriors have 4 other players making at least $15 million per year. As we can see, this mindset isn’t limited to our professional athletic teams, but has carried on through our NCAA college athletics as money continues to be a common issue.

With college athletes getting recruited at nearly the same cost as some professional athletes’ yearly salaries, it begs the question: If money is being prioritized to recruit “all star” athletes, then how is the distribution of equity amongst each player fair? Considering that most full ride scholarships are available for Division I athletes, there are still a majority of college athletes that struggle to compensate for their schooling as well as other daily needs. Senior basketball player and politics major JoJo Wiggins expressed his concerns for the majority of athletes.

“The underground payment for players in Division I basketball doesn’t surprise or bother me in the slightest. The amount of money the NCAA makes off of Division I players is ridiculous. So to say they can’t be compensated for their work is an injustice. I don’t believe they should be paid as much as professionals, but the common occurrence of players going hungry because of a lack of money is also inexcusable. In addition, some of these players’ families are in need of money, and with the NBA’s requirement of prospects being one year removed from high school, and the NFL being three, players aren’t always in financial positions to wait the required time to get compensated,” Wiggins explained.

It is here that we can make a clear distinction between Division I and Division III athletics. Division I schools are allowed to provide more full ride scholarships for athletics rather than academics, once again showing that Division I schools are a hierarchy where athletics are pushed towards the top and academics are pushed to the bottom. Division III schools, on the other hand, are not allowed to give scholarships for athletics, but instead student athletes must earn their merit based off of their academic achievements. Whitman’s Athletic Director Dean Snider spoke more on the relationship between academics and athletics here at Whitman compared to Division I schools.

“Whitman College students who participate in the athletics program were admitted on their own academic merits under the same admission standards as students who do not participate in varsity athletics. They have essentially the same aggregate GPA, and they graduate at a higher rate than non-athletes. Whitman College and our athletics program value student learning above all else and should do everything it can to distance itself from the business model that exists in the NCAA Division I,” Snider said.

It is safe to say that the NCAA basketball scandal has brought to light many problems regarding the prioritization of NCAA regulations. It is time to reconsider college athletic values, meaning it is time to put the money aside in order to redevelop what sports are truly about: the competition. As athletes, we live for the competition and we practice each and every day to add to that competitive nature.