Solution Proposal Hillger

Cheated By The System

While I enjoy watching college sports, mostly college football, I don't enjoy watching the same teams in championship games every year. It is unfair for the rest of the nation. I do understand that top prospects like to go to top athletic programs to have a better chance at winning a title, but with recent allegations of colleges giving incentives to recruits and athletes already playing, it makes me wonder if this is occurring more often than not. The fact is that universities continue to recruit and pay athletes illegally right underneath the NCAA's nose and as long as the NCAA doesn't crack down on this problem it will continue to happen for years to come.

"Meet the Bag Man" is about Steven Godfrey who interviewed a bag man, undisclosed, that works for an undisclosed Southeastern Conference team and finds out the truth about what is really happening. A bag man is someone who collects and delivers money for a boss or organization. In this particular case, it was the organization. The bag man laid out a series of rules to follow when recruiting athletes:

I. "Just hang out and keep your mouth shut."
II. Discover Crootsylvania, the pay-me state.
III. Even shadow governments have staff meetings.
IV. (Don't) get to know your head coach.
V. There is never a bank account. There is only cash.
VI. The rules of courting.
VII. You will know your enemy.
VIII. Small, simple and frequent.
IX. Just say no to bounties and bonuses.
X. You must keep the circle unbroken. (Godfrey)

These rules of his are meant to keep him and other bag men from getting caught. The bag man gave plenty of examples of what he has done to ensure that recruits will go to their school. The one that is used the most often is buying them a vehicle. They simply work with the family and organize to have the uncle or whoever look like they paid for it, so when it comes to questioning, they will have the proper paperwork, mainly the title for the car. Another example was have the recruits use burners, phones you can buy that have prepaid minutes, to contact your bag man to collect their money and get a new one every few weeks. He once paid for a single mother's rehab so her mother wouldn't have to watch her kids all the time just to get her brother to sign with them. Bag men and organizations go to great lengths to acquire athletes with this system and it won't be going anywhere anytime soon. At the end of the interview, the bag man calls over the bartender and says, "If I told you right now the [team] would win the SEC this fall and go to the Playoff, but only if you gave me 10 grand, would you do it?" to which the bartender replied, "Will you take a check?" (Godfrey).

In the beginning "From Dickens to Sampson", it gives a brief look about what happened at the University of Indiana over the past half century, it states:

Since the formalization of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s enforcement powers in the early 1950s, Indiana University has shown a general history of compliance with that organization’s rules. However, two discrete periods—the Phil Dickens football era in the late 1950s and the Kelvin Sampson basketball era of 2006-2008—stand as reminders of the potential consequences of a lack of institutional control over the university’s athletic department. The NCAA investigation of IU’s “Sampson Era” resulted in citations for five major infractions, leading to NCAA-imposed penalties, significant personnel changes in the athletic department, and the loss of nearly every player from the previous year’s team. (123)

It all began when Phil Dickens was hired in 1957 to take over the head coaching job of a struggling football team. At the time, the Big Ten had a need-based scholarship program, a scholarship that renew's yearly depending on your academic grades. This deterred top athletes around the country from coming to Indiana University. Dickens then thought the only way to get recruits to buy into their program was by having boosters and alumni to give them incentives. The main incentive according to From Dickens to Sampson, "Alumnus giving the athletes free vacation transportation between home and Indiana University and some cash" (Pierce and Clavio). While it seemed to work for the first few years, the NCAA eventually caught on and handed down a hefty charge, "The NCAA placed IU on a four-year probation, which included an all-sports ban on television appearances and NCAA championship competition" (Pierce and Clavio). So not only did they put the football team on probation, they put the whole University on probation, which hurt their swimming team from competing for a national title for four years, from 1960 to 1963. Now to the most recent incident, which involved the hiring of Kelvin Sampson in 2006 as the new head coach for the men's basketball team, "Despite his impressive coaching resume, some saw Sampson’s hiring as a risk, due to allegations of NCAA rules violations during his tenure at Oklahoma" (Pierce and Clavio). He was already being investigated by the NCAA from his time spent at Oklahoma. About a month after being hired by IU the NCAA found that Sampson had recruiting violations, which consisted of him illegally contacting potential recruits. This was happening during the time technology was advancing and texting was starting to become popular. So Sampson decided to take advantage while the NCAA worked on revising the policy. It didn't pan out like he wanted and this time only the basketball team was put on probation for three years and a reduction of one men's basketball scholarship. While these charges for both cases may be harsh, that is what the NCAA sought fit.

One of the most recent allegations comes from Syracuse University, which have just recently been found with a slew of infractions laid out in a 94 page report by the NCAA. "Members of the athletic staff forged classwork, players were handed cash for appearances as volunteers, others were allowed to skirt the university’s drug policy without consequence, and dozens more involving the storied program" (Schonbrun). The NCAA is expected to vacate 100 wins of Joe Boeheim's basketball team, lose twelve scholarships over the next four years, Syracuse football is placed on a five year probation and vacate wins from 2004 to 2006, and many more. After the consequences were laid out, Boeheim said that he plans to retire within the next three years.

Another recent allegation was with University of North Carolina where a former college basketball player, Rashad McCants, claimed that he was apart of academic fraud while at UNC. "McCants, in an appearance Wednesday on "Outside the Lines," stood by his allegations and called on all former players from 2004-05 to release their academic transcripts, which would show whether they, too, took bogus African-American studies classes" (ESPN Outside the Lines). In other words, while he was on the team they took "paper classes" where they didn't have to show up to class and their tutors would type the papers for them. Roy Williams, the head coach of the basketball team, denied the allegations and said he had no control over the academic side of the program. This case is still being investigated and with other players admitting to academic fraud as well, there is no doubt they will be found of violating the policy and I won't be surprised if the NCAA strips them of their 2005 national championship.

The cause of this continuing to happen is because universities want to remain on top and will do anything to do so, it is a win now and often method. While there has been some repercussions, there hasn't been enough in order for the NCAA to investigate every Division I school. So if head coaches and athletic directors feel like they can get away with illegal recruiting, then who is to stop them. Until the NCAA comes up with viable solutions to this problem, I don't see it going away for quite some time.

One solution would be to preform background checks on everybody who is involved in the athletic department as well as the new recruits. This can be paid for from the budget each university receives each year from the NCAA. "A basic state-based criminal background check cost 10-20 dollars, a deeper nationwide criminal background check cost 25-50 dollars, and expert-assisted background check, which consist of financial and business history, cost 80-150 dollars." (Criminal Background Check Cost). While the financial background check cost the most, it would be the best option considering the NCAA would need to see where money is flowing for their respective employees. For instance, "Meet the Bag Man" is the best example of how people are using money to buy athletes and this solution would reduce the risk of this happening more often.

Another solution is to just pay this athletes. This eliminates universities from violating the regulations and the student-athletes wouldn't have to worry about money as much as they do now, but it is not that simple. As college sports continue to grow, money wise, this bags the question of why college athletes shouldn't be paid. Some students-athletes believe they should be paid because it is like a full-time job and they are getting exploited by the universities, but in reality they are already being compensated with scholarships. While some star athletes bring in more fans and money doesn't mean he should be paid because if they pay one athlete they have to pay them all. Then there would be conflict between athletes because some of them would believe they should be paid more than their peers and would essentially be a professional type atmosphere with a salary cap. It would completely revolutionize the college athletic department and just bring more problems than not. According to the article, "The NCAA Just Misses $1 Billion In Annual Revenue," on The Huffington Post, "The NCAA pulled in 989 million dollars in the 2014 fiscal year with 908.6 million dollar going towards expenses and end up with 80.5 million dollars in surplus." Then the majority of the money from the surplus goes to safeguarding the institution from a financial catastrophe. While most of the money comes from basketball and football, most of that money goes toward funding all of the other sports the universities are associated with. In "Probability of Competing in Sports Beyond High School," they laid out the numbers of high school student-athletes, then the percent of them who go onto compete in college, and then of that number they label the percent of college athletes who get drafted.

8.6% of college baseball players get drafted by the MLB
1.2% of college men's basketball players get drafted by the NBA
0.9% of college women's basketball players get drafted by the WNBA
1.4% of college soccer players get drafted by the MLS
6.8% of college hockey players get drafted by the NHL
6.5% of college football players get drafted by the NFL. (NCAA).

These numbers are low and of those drafted, many, of them won't even make professional rosters. In the article the NCAA says, "The experiences of college athletics and the life lessons they learn along the way will help them as they pursue careers in other fields." In other words, the NCAA values their athletes and gives them opportunities others don't have.

At the end of the day, the criminal background check would be the most viable solution to this problem. This is the cheaper of the solutions. The universities and the NCAA would know who is working for them and where there recruits are coming from. While everyone loves to be paid sometimes it goes to the extent of being illegal. Illegal recruiting continues today and hopefully the NCAA cracks the wipe on teams who keep violating these policies. With the proper solutions this problem can be reduced and maybe eventually be eliminated entirely.

Works Cited:

  • "Criminal Background Check Cost." Cost Helper. Web. 26 Apr. 2015.
  • Godfrey, Steven. "Meet the Bag Man: How to Buy College Football Players, in the Words of the Man Who Delivers the Money." SBNation. 10 Apr. 2014. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.
  • "McCants: 'All I Know is the Truth'." ESPN Outside the Lines. 11 June. 2014. Web. 28 Mar. 2015.
  • Pierce, David and Galen Clavio. "From Dickens to Sampson: An Examination of NCAA Rules Violations at Indiana University." Indiana Magazine of History. Vol. 107, No. 2 (June 2011): 123-152. JSTOR. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.
  • "Probability of Competing in Sports Beyond High School." NCAA. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.
  • Schonbrun, Zach. "Syracuse Basketball and Coach Jim Boeheim Hit Hard By NCAA." The New York Times. 6 Mar. 2015. Web. 28 Mar. 2015.
  • Strachan, Maxwell. "The NCAA Just Misses $1 Billion In Annual Revenue." The Huffington Post. 11 Mar. 2015. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.

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