I returned from a weeklong vacation in Hawaii to find out that the 2nd greatest event on the sports calendar in 2018 – the World Cup is 1st – to find out that the FBI is threatening to ruin the NCAA Tournament.
Two weeks after the Wall Street Journal embarrassed the FBI by reporting that an undercover agent at the bureau spent government money on gambling and food, the FBI flexed its muscles by leaking to Yahoo Sports that a bunch of current and former college basketball players took a couple bucks from street agents hoping to secure the athletes once they reached the NBA.
And now, the NCAA Tournament is in jeopardy. A 3-week, billion dollar orgy of basketball could be ruined because Malik Pope of San Diego State received a $1,400 loan, former Wichita State point guard Fred Van Vleet was linked to a $1,070 loan, and DeAndre Ayton’s name was mentioned in a conversion about $100,000.
The paper trail is impressive. But the NCAA has to ask itself: Are suspensions of some of the best players from the best schools necessary over some alleged payments? So what if Miles Bridges’ mom is linked to a $400 ATM receipt? The entire NCAA system is a joke, and has been since college sports turned into a billion dollar industry where everyone profits except the kids.
The best solution so as to not jeopardize the crown jewel of the college basketball season, is to let everyone under suspicion play. And that includes USC’s star guard De'Anthony Melton, who has had to sit out the entire season, and last week withdrew from school. Let him come back. The system is broken.
Hell, I wouldn’t even make Sean Miller relinquish control of the Arizona Wildcats. You’re threatening a coach with a Top 10 team because “according to people with knowledge of the FBI investigation?” On the eve of the tournament? Arizona should call its bluff, let Miller coach, and if they win the title and it gets pulled in a few years, so be it.
It’s the least they could do for Miller, who has repeatedly gagged before getting to the Final Four. In the last seven years, Miller has lost in three regional finals, and twice in the regional semifinals. There’s a joke somewhere in here about his replacement helping Arizona’s chances of getting to the Final 4.
The best reason to let Miller coach? It’s not like people erased from their memory the Fab 5’s two runs to the NCAA Title game, or Louisville’s 2013 National Championship.
The NCAA needs to do the right thing. Let everyone play and coach, and sort it out in the offseason. There’s too much money and fun on the line to ruin it for everyone. From the players to the fans.