Nima Movassaghi | Contributing Writer

Don’t think this “amateur athletics” tag is going to stick any longer.

Those at the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis have been mum, although you probably haven’t.

An ESPN report last Friday alleged that Arizona’s men’s basketball coach Sean Miller was caught on wiretap by the FBI discussing a $100,000 payment directed at former five-star recruit De’Andre Ayton. Only hours had passed since Yahoo! released a report connecting high profile players from more than 20 NCAA programs to major NCAA violations. As the national media had a field day with the allegations, the NCAA is sitting in uncharted territory with only a week before March Madness brackets are unveiled. What will they do?

The recent events come in the wake of other scandals that have rocked the sport. NCAA president Mark Emmert was allegedly informed that 37 different Michigan State University student-athletes were accused of sexual assault. That was eight years ago. After an ESPN report alleged that MSU’s department of athletics has been covering up sexual assaults for years, the NCAA launched an investigation. Curiously, Lou Anna Simon, the university’s former president, was on the NCAA’s board of governors at the time of Emmert’s briefing.

On Feb. 20, the NCAA upheld its decision to vacate Louisville’s 2013 national championship amid an investigation that found the school guilty of using “striptease dances” and other “sex acts” to entertain prospective student-athletes and student-athletes, among others. Former coach Rick Pitino was fired this fall after an initial FBI investigation implicated the program of corruption.

The ball is now in the NCAA’s court. They’ve insisted that they are hopeful to reach a resolution by Selection Sunday this week. When this is all said and done, hundreds of wins, championships, and records may be vacated. I wish the NCAA would hand out earplugs before they continuously talk about “amateur athletics” while simultaneously fostering deals that bring in upwards of 900 million dollars through March Madness.

At the end of the day, the student-athletes know wrong from right: Under no circumstances are they to accept anything of monetary value in exchange for their commitment to a school. The NCAA must brand and govern itself in a way that doesn’t incentivize federal crimes. If they don’t, other leagues may brand themselves in a way that is more attractive to young athletes. The NBA’s G-League could become an affective alternative, as could LaVar Ball’s aspiring Junior Basketball League. Both leagues could offer compensation and an opportunity to develop one’s game.

It’s time for the NCAA to wake up from its delusional fairy tale and ponder the future. Perhaps the stubborn, financially-motivated approach isn’t going to maximize the potential of college athletics. College athletics are a billion-dollar business. If the rules allowed it, top recruits in college basketball would undoubtedly be drafted by an NBA franchise out of high school. From a coach’s standpoint, poor recruiting and losing is a recipe for unemployment. If bribing a student-athlete could be the difference between having a job or being unemployed in a year, who wouldn’t do it?

Mid-majors are often overlooked in the top tier recruiting conversation, but results prove they are legit and go the distance. Hello, Butler? Zag Nation, I see you. Saint Mary’s is Top-25 ranked and should be tourney-bound. It’s not out of the realm of possibility for an agent to shop his client at a mid-major. It’s not unreasonable to think that a top-tier recruit, seeking to avoid getting caught up in a scandal, may choose a rising mid-major in order to have the opportunity to develop and play without the prospect of the dangerous fallout of a widespread investigation. Mid-majors appear to be above the fray. Nationally, however, it’s almost too complex to unravel.

Top tier programs generally carry more than one player who was highly recruited. Although the spotlight may be on a specific list of players right now, that isn’t to say more names won’t be implicated soon. Recruiting in college basketball is saturated. The top players usually end up at the same schools year after year. The last mid-major to make serious noise in recruiting from a rating standpoint was Memphis in 2008—their 2008 season was vacated amid major NCAA violations.

The NCAA has built a system that forces coaches to go any length possible to attract elite student-athletes. At Arizona, Sean Miller’s teams have built a strong national reputation. Every March, the NCAA licks its chops as millions tune in to catch a glimpse of elite teams like Arizona. Years after using your team to make money, they’ll strip you of your wins, and condemn you for compromising “amateur” athletes. It’s hypocritical because your violations set the stage for an even more exciting tournament.

It’s almost as if that’s just how the NCAA wants it. Now the FBI knows. Every basketball fan in the country knows.

The NCAA is on the clock.

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