If you’re charmed and hypnotized by the NCAA men’s basketball tournament — as much of the country is — just wait till it’s over and the real excitement begins.
We know that more than 20 schools were implicated in what is reported to be a widespread corruption case — investigated by the FBI — centering on sports agents, assistant coaches, blue-chip players and big money.
The road to the Final Four has some bad potholes and cracks.
And that repair work will start when the final horn sounds and a champion is crowned at the Alamodome in San Antonio Monday night, April 2.
To this point, the University of Arizona has taken most of the media bombardment because its coach, Sean Miller, was mentioned in a highly questionable bit of reporting by ESPN. There have been corrections, revisions and backtracking by ESPN. Miller, after sitting out one game, was cleared to continue coaching.
But an assistant was terminated and a player’s name drug through the mud as the alleged recipient of $100,000 to enroll at Arizona. The player and his family denied it and he was also cleared to play.
And during all this you heard nothing about the other schools supposedly involved in the scandal. The silence was deafening.
Among those other schools included in the federal report were: Duke, North Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, Michigan State, Southern Cal, Alabama, North Carolina State, Seton Hall, LSU, Maryland, Washington, South Carolina, Louisville, Utah, Xavier, Wichita State, Clemson, Kansas, Creighton, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Virginia and Iowa State.
So why did Arizona get hammered by the media and the other schools didn’t? Because Coach Miller’s name was mentioned.
Nobody asked at the time why the FBI would pick out one reporter to listen to a wiretap while an investigation was supposedly going on.
The accusation was so incendiary and the tale so sensational the media ran with it. Ratings and readers outranked a bit of fact checking and a little patience to wait and see if this involved all of college basketball, not merely one school.
It seems that it does.
Up to now fans have shown a judicious sense of what not to believe. But there’s a problem and here it is: The one-and-done rule.
By this dangerous and destructive policy the best high school players sign at the college of their choice, play one year — and attend classes maybe one semester — then declare for the National Basketball Association.
College basketball, for all its hoopla and the billions of dollars it generates, is nothing more than an NBA minor league.
The best players are 18- and 19-year freshmen who can dribble like magicians, soar through the air, dunk the ball and do everything but play defense. They’re not in school long enough to develop as all-around players — or all-around people, for that matter.
The NCAA men’s tournament is one of the best sporting events in the world largely because of its format. You win, you advance. You lose, you go home.
And fans of the college game are glued to their TV sets like no other time of the year. Office pools, usually won by secretaries who don’t know a jump shot from a jumper cable, are sold out on Selection Sunday.
This country is madly in love with college hoops. But the sport is broken and needs to be fixed PDQ.
It will be, once the tournament is over.
Hopefully, one-and-done will be thrown out. High school players who enroll at colleges should be required to commit themselves (and their talent) to three years of learning and development.
Isn’t that what college is for?
If there’s been under-the-table payment to the best talent — and nobody’s naive enough to think differently — that should be abolished.
Summer development programs, which recruit the best teenage players in the country, have ruled the roost far too long. It’s not hard to imagine some sharpie connected to such a program steering a star player to a big-name college … as part of an agreement to get a slice of the kid's signing bonus when he joins the NBA.
The FBI probe will undoubtedly lead the NCAA to sanction schools, coaches and players. Who knows how widespread it will be?
But up to now only one school has been hurt, unfairly if — as the case almost surely will be — 20 or more teams are involved.
So enjoy the excitement of the Final Four. Then get ready for the real drama.
College basketball is about to strap a full-court press on itself.
Corky Simpson writes for the Green Valley News.