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SAN FRANCISCO — One year later, little has changed regarding the legal mess facing college basketball in general and the Pac-12 Conference in particular.
A year ago, after the high-profile arrests of 10 college basketball figures that included two prominent assistant coaches within the league, the prevailing belief was that matters were only going to get uglier before any sort of resolution or appropriate punishment arrived.
We’re still waiting.
Across the country, against the backdrop of Thursday’s Pac-12 men’s basketball media day, the first of those corruption trials has been unfolding in New York. While those now-former assistants, Tony Bland from USC and Book Richardson from Arizona, still await their day in court, the Pac-12 nonetheless continues to be dragged through the mire. The latest nugget of info this week was the opening statement of the lawyer for one of the defendants, former Adidas executive Jim Gatto, saying his client was offered “an astronomical amount of money” by Oregon to steer former top-flight recruit Brian Bowen to Eugene.
On Thursday, some of the central and not-so-central figures in the ongoing drama offered the same tepid responses heard from start to finish during the 2017-18 season.
“That’s a silly question,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, bristling at the idea an alleged payment from a financial advisor to former Utes star Kyle Kuzma might prove problematic.
“I don’t know anything about that,” USC coach Andy Enfield said.
“Any question like that I’d ask you to go back and look at my statement in March,” said Arizona coach Sean Miller, repeatedly, as if no new eyebrow-raising allegations have surfaced since he and another alleged figure in the scandal, 2018 NBA top draft pick Deandre Ayton, cut down the nets after the Pac-12 title game in Las Vegas.
“We haven’t talked about it that much. Obviously (the players) saw it, but it hasn’t been a distraction,” said Oregon Dana Altman, shrugging off the testimony as if it was mundane trash talk from an overzealous foe.
It perhaps isn’t surprising those coaches would opt for the road of least, or no, resistance. Yet for a sport, and conference, in desperate need of positive reinforcement, responding as if admitting the seriousness of the situation would have made far better optics. It gives Colorado fans even more reason to appreciate the often blunt honesty of head coach Tad Boyle, he of the “Hell yes!” comment last year after the Buffs toppled Miller’s Wildcats.
Boyle was far more restrained than usual in discussing the situation Thursday in San Francisco, though his frustration at the lack of any repercussions for those involved remained palpable.
“You’ve got to just let the process play out,” Boyle said. “It doesn’t move as quickly as anybody probably would like. I’ve had a year to process it and deal with it. Nothing has really changed from a year ago.”
Rehashing and reviewing college basketball’s mess at the Pac-12 media day also occurred as commissioner Larry Scott was forced to take time from his preseason basketball comments to address Wednesday’s Yahoo Sports report stating the league’s senior vice president of business affairs, Woodie Dixon, improperly influenced the review of a targeting non-call in the football game weeks ago between USC and Washington State.
This, again, is on the heels of the Pac-12 going 1-8 in bowl games last year. And sending just three teams to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, none of whom survived the opening round. And, at the near-midpoint of the football season, being on the outside looking in at the College Football Playoff picture.
Perhaps the league honchos should start overtly rooting for coach Mike MacIntyre’s bunch to run the table. More than ever, the Pac-12 needs a feel-good story to rally around.