PHOENIX — The silence has been deafening.
Not from the FBI, which, now four months after its bombshell arrests in an NCAA recruiting scandal, has offered nothing more despite its immediate boasts to the contrary.
Not from the task forces formed by the NCAA and the Pac-12, which presumably are doing their due diligence in the background in hopes of cleaning up a sport muddied by the arrests of four prominent assistant coaches on various fraud and bribery charges.
It’s the lonely sound of crickets chirping among the coaching fraternity that begs the question: Is Colorado’s Tad Boyle the only coach in America that truly cares about the apparent cheats in the game?
It has been almost three full weeks since Boyle’s postgame comments following a win against nationally-ranked Arizona on Jan. 6, when he declared there indeed was extra satisfaction at defeating one of the two Pac-12 rivals embroiled in the FBI investigation.
In the intervening weeks I’ve been asked frequently — on public airwaves, in press rooms, and in private conversations — if I was surprised at all by Boyle’s comments. To paraphrase his own enthusiasm, hell no.
If nothing else, Boyle has been consistent in every aspect of the case since news of the FBI arrests broke on Sept. 26, from his initial reaction (“We kind of know within our business, our industry, who’s kind of toeing that line and who’s crossing that line. It was more frustrating before because it wasn’t exposed. I don’t know how it’s going to play out either, but maybe justice has been served.”) to his comments at the Pac-12 media days (“This is good for our game. A lot of people think it’s a bad thing. It’s good for college basketball. It’s getting a problem that’s been going on for years and years it’s bringing it into the light.”) to even expressing frustration when North Carolina emerged unscathed from a years-long investigation into academic fraud while his own freshman, Evan Battey, was ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA due to academic missteps that occurred when he was a freshman in high school (“Evan Battey gets punished and North Carolina goes scot-free, and so does four schools with coaches indicted by the FBI.”).
What is surprising is that Boyle seemingly has been a lone voice in this wilderness. If coaches actually cared about cleaning up the game, if the majority of programs that profess to do things the right way truly want to see a level playing field, Boyle’s voice should be part of a boisterous choir and not a solo act.
Take, for instance, the comments earlier this month by Utah’s Larry Krystkowiak. Asked to weigh in on the matter after Boyle’s public comments Krystkowiak took a pass, saying he’d prefer to “focus on what I can control” and that he was going to remain “pretty Switzerland on the whole deal.”
I like Krystkowiak, but that’s the very definition of weak sauce.
If coaches don’t speak up on cheating within their own sport, they are complicit in their silence. Moreover, when the Pac-12 strong-arms Boyle into releasing a clarification of his “hell yes” comment that the conference honchos preferred to be an apology, then it’s easy to wonder if there will be any teeth behind the wonderful athletics minds commissioned by the conference in a task force charged with researching and addressing the issues staining the sport in general and the league in particular.
Like Boyle did after that Jan. 6 win, teams should take more pleasure this season in defeating Arizona and USC, which finally got around to officially firing arrested assistant coach Tony Bland on Thursday. While not talking freely until all the chips fall into place may be reasonable stance, this isn’t about mundane violations like a free meal here or an extra plane ticket home there. These are federal charges, with tens of thousands of dollars allegedly changing hands to lure recruits to places like Arizona and USC. If other coaches besides Boyle don’t get incensed over this sort of uneven playing field, what exactly will it take?
If your programs truly are operating on the straight and narrow, please speak up, coaches. College basketball fans would love to hear from you.