Just as the college basketball season was about to enter March Madness earlier this year, players from more than 20 Division I men’s basketball programs were identified by Yahoo! Sports as having possibly broken NCAA violations uncovered by an
Schools identified by Yahoo! Sports include Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Texas, Michigan State, USC and Kansas. Players identified include Michigan State sophomore Miles Bridges, Alabama freshman guard Collin Sexton and former Utah Ute forward and current Los Angeles Lakers’ forward Kyle Kuzma.
Players linked to the possible violations were the recipients of unallowed benefits. University of Arizona freshman, and future NBA lottery pick, DeAndre Ayton was reportedly paid $100,000 by the university to secure his recruitment.
The NCAA’s board of directors has established that all Division I institutions must examine their men’s basketball programs for possible NCAA violations.
Although Cal Poly’s basketball program does not boast the same stars as some of the nation’s top-flight programs, the team’s athletic program is sponsored by Adidas, a company which found itself in hot water for allegedly paying players earlier this season.
Don Oberhelman, Cal Poly’s director of athletics, emphasized that Cal Poly’s athletic program has different standards.
“I’ve talked about it with coach Joe Callero a little bit, we feel very confident and comfortable on where we are,” Oberhelman said. “I am 100 percent behind our coaches when it comes to their integrity and how they operate and all that.”
Oberhelman said academics hold a great weight when determining a scholarship-level player.
“We operate differently than what you see most universities do,” Oberhelman said. “Academics really matter to us and you hear other schools say that, yet they’re admitting the bare minimum 2.0 [GPA] high school student as an NCAA qualifier and we’re not going to do that. So for us, we can’t just find who the best athletes are; they also have to be pretty exceptionally gifted students.”
Oberhelman said he believes that players such as Ayton are a rarity and that there are not many “sure-fire locks” to make the NBA worth paying.
“There’s not one in our conference even let alone one at Cal Poly,” Oberhelman said. “Those kinds of guys — one-and-done, top-10 picks — that are worth investing that kind of money in. But…to sacrifice your integrity for them, they better be good.”
Oberhelman said players like Cal Poly basketball alumnus and current NBA player David Nwaba are hard to come by. Oberhelman said,“There are not that many. Nwaba was barely recruited out of high school. We were able to land him here and he continues to develop and hone his skills and now he’s starting in the NBA.”
Cal Poly men’s basketball coach Callero, who is in his 31st year of coaching, said boosters were often involved in the “pay to play” method for players, but now shoe companies have taken center stage with their sponsorships of Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball teams and AAU coaches.
Callero realizes the severity of the investigation pertaining to the schools who were caught, but does not think the FBI knows what is going on all the time.
“The thing about the current scandal, for example, the FBI stated, ‘We have your playbook, we know how things are done now.’ They don’t have the playbook, they have a playbook of a way to do it for a company,” Callero said.
Callero said he is fine with his players meeting with agents, but does not want them to get trapped into receiving bribes or gifts.
“It’s OK to meet with an agent,” Callero said. “It’s not illegal to meet with an agent and get educated. It’s illegal to take money behind the scenes. The most illegal thing — when you get gifts — you have tax issues. You’re dealing with a federal income tax evasion item.”
Like Oberhelman, Callero takes pride in his players’ strong academic values.
“We’re batting about 95 percent on our guys getting their college degree,” Callero said. “So people we recruit have a tremendous desire to go to a high academic school. Many want to be pros, we’ve had guys go to the NBA now, we have guys playing overseas, but they know that even that ends. Most of our guys are going to have to play throughout their senior year, graduate, try to get a job in Finland, Malaysia, Mexico or another foreign country.”
Oberhelman made a point that a “one size fits all” mentality does not work when it comes to assessing collegiate recruiting.
“The methodology is very different sport to sport,” Oberhelman said. “For volleyball these days, young women are committing when they are 14 or 15 years old. We have no idea what that person’s transcript is going to look like in three years, so we have to be cautious and careful and we have to be honest and say, ‘These are our current numbers and what we are looking for [in] academics. We like everything you’re doing, thanks for committing to us, but we can’t sign you.’ ”
Callero sees this scandal as a positive for Cal Poly because of the program’s commitment to stay clean.
“What’s going on doesn’t affect us except in a positive way. Every time somebody gets busted, every time there’s a controversy, that may give us a better chance to have a kid, a family, a coach to say, ‘Cal Poly’s been clean for years and we’re going to continue to be clean and continue to graduate guys,” Callero said.