Earlier this week, BuffZone.com posted a story about the Pac-12 Conference task force, a group formed in the wake of the arrests of four prominent Division I assistant coaches — including two from the Pac-12 — as part of a still-ongoing FBI college basketball recruiting investigation.
For the story, I talked to three of the task force members — Pac-12 network analyst and former USC assistant football coach Yogi Roth; college basketball Hall of Fame coach Mike Montgomery; and the University of Colorado’s own in-house legend, Ceal Barry.
All three were gracious enough to share far more thoughts than I could use in the story, so here is a little extra from those interviews.
On initial reaction to FBI bust
“My first thought was that it was good. I’m glad this is being addressed with this seriousness. When the acronym FBI is attached to men’s basketball on recruiting, it sends a message of this is not welcome. In addition to it not being fair, not being a level playing field, not being good sportsmen, it’s not good for communities. It’s not good for college communities with hundreds of thousands of dollars are being exchanged when other people are worried about giving a ride to a student-athlete during a snowstorm. They get turned in on a small violation, or giving somebody a meal, versus six figures getting rewarded, and everybody getting a piece of the pie based on a 16-year old’s ability. It just doesn’t add up. For me, as an administrator who has been in coaching, it’s just not why you coach. It’s now why we have sports. I’m glad. I was like, ‘Good, maybe it’s a start.'”
“I was a little surprised that the FBI was involved. And I think some people question even so, is there really a crime there? Is that something the FBI is worried about? Was I surprised that people don’t follow the rules? It’s been going on since I’ve been in coaching back in the 60s. Some people have gone back to the point-shaving scandals and this and that. It’s disappointing that it has come to this. But I think maybe it may help people to wake up and decide what they want. What is it you want from this thing? I happen to think the opportunity to play college basketball and get a scholarship and earn a degree is fabulous. I think it’s as good as it gets. But it’s gotten way past that with the amount of money and professional contracts.”
On whether the Pac-12 task force can actually lead to tangible change
“I really think it’s about understanding the landscape. You’re coming from a variety of POVs. If I just take football — whether that’s the marketing side, or whether that’s the apparel side, or whether that’s the agent side — there’s a variety of different lenses they not only look through but have expertise on. One of my areas of focus in the task group is around the agent relationship with our sports. So that’s the parents, the student-athletes, the coaches, the intermediaries, the personal trainer, the brand. The colleges. There’s a lot of areas that we’ve really got to understand. So what is currently being done to educate student-athletes on the relationship with an agent? What is currently the history of it? I’ve been able to dive back into the history of that element of sports. Nike started a sports agency, and people may not even know that happened 25 years ago.
On if the task force is honing in on ideas now less than two months before it is supposed to present findings to Pac-12 CEO group:
“One of the things we were talking about was the one-and-done. What are some of unintended consequences of drafting out of high school? What if the NBA drafted high school kids and they didn’t have to have a year of college? Then the comment was, ‘Well, other kids aren’t going to aspire to meet college eligibility requirements because they’re going to get drafted.’ Now they’re not going to algebra II. That would be terrible if we don’t have high school graduates. We’re worried about college graduates. We need to make sure we just don’t throw out a rule without thinking it through. There is enough expertise in the rule that we all agree kids should get their high school degree and not be eligible for the draft right out of high school, because they’re going to spend more time with their personal coach than they are with their algebra teacher. It’s really looking out for the welfare of kids and try and make decisions for kids. And these are kids. Fourteen, 15-year old kids. People are getting their claws in them early. You can tell when someone is that good as a freshman (in high school).”