The college basketball scandal continues to dominate the sports news following the FBI’s arrests of 10 individuals on corruption charges ranging from bribery to conspiracy and money laundering, among others. Those charged included four assistant coaches, managers, advisors, employees of a global sportswear company, and even a former referee turned clothier – all on charges related to funneling cash to families of high school recruits.
In a recent Sports Illustrated cover story following the arrests, writer Andy Staples asks the question, “Because the FBI and the Department of Justice won’t always be there to help make the case against coaches and players who break the rules, how can the NCAA combat the corruption exposed by the investigation?” Staples continues, “The simplest way is to stop vilifying the act of paying people for being good at sports and let athletes take money from whoever wants to pay them.”
One option would be to simply let players have agents and this has been discussed by the Power Five Conferences. Staples points out that, “The NCAA would have the opportunity to exert some authority over a group (the agents) it hasn’t been able to control.” While other options have been considered, it is doubtful that any meaningful changes will take place anytime soon. So for now for college basketball programs and their head coaches, the question becomes, “what should we be doing now to assure that what happened at Southern Cal, Oklahoma State, Auburn, Arizona, Louisville, and possibly others, doesn’t happen to us?
Compliance professionals would suggest that there may be several simple steps that all college coaches could take immediately to prevent the problems we’re seeing and to assure university presidents that their institutions’ reputations will be protected:
* The head coach and the athletic department compliance officer should meet with the university compliance officer to develop a plan to address all areas of compliance risk in the basketball program.
* The head coach should designate an administrative aide to gather all available information on the current college basketball scandal for dissemination to all members of the basketball staff. This should be an ongoing activity.
* Basketball staff members should receive regular compliance training not just on NCAA rules and regulations, but on general integrity and ethics matters as well.
* Training should include reminders that any wrongdoing encountered or observed in the basketball program should be reported to the university compliance officer or to the head coach in person or via the hotline.
* The basketball program’s “Integrity, Ethics and Compliance Plan” should be shared with the athletic director and university president along with periodic reports on the Plan.
It may be that college sports are too lucrative, too vast and far-flung, to be rendered pristine by a simple call to action or a single initiative. But the steps outlined here could make a meaningful difference, and that would be success enough.