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SEC Schools Are Still Cheatin’

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Today, in the least surprising news ever.

Today, Pat Forde at Sports Illustrated, bringing the fire guaranteed to make the cheatin’ apologists’ (“but muh name image and likeness rights”) heads explode:

“The SEC is a s--- fest right now, so coaches can’t be too hypocritical because everyone else is doing it, too. It’s pretty bad throughout.”

It hasn’t been that long since describing SEC basketball as a “shitfest” would have been referring to the product on the court, but that was when Darrin Horn and Tony Barbee were actual head basketball coaches at SEC schools. Now, of course, the source is talking about this:

“Things may be worse now than they were before the FBI stuff,” said one industry insider with deep ties in both the recruiting and coaching realms. “It’s like they receded after it initially hit, then nothing happened and now they’re pushing the boundaries even further. The league is only getting worse.

Oh, hang on. Let me get my proper reaction face to this news.

Yeah. Pretty much.

As the article notes, back in 2017, the FBI announced criminal indictments against multiple college basketball assistant coaches, two of them (Auburn’s Chuck Person and South Carolina’s Lamont Evans) employed at SEC schools. Through the course of that investigation, Alabama came up as having at least engaged in some shady behavior around former player Collin Sexton (though, that coaching staff has since been fired), and LSU... well...

In 2019, it was reported that LSU’s head coach, Will Wade, was caught on an FBI wiretap discussing a “strong-ass offer” for a player with aspiring agent Christian Dawkins. The wiretap was then heard last spring on an HBO documentary about Dawkins, the central figure in the bribery scandal. Then, a July letter from Duncan to the NCAA Committee on Infractions said his staff received information that “Mr. Wade arranged for, offered and/or provided impermissible payments, including cash payments, to at least 11 men’s basketball prospective student-athletes, their family members, individuals associated with the prospects and/or non-scholastic coaches in exchange for the prospects’ enrollment at LSU.” SI also has received similar information regarding at least one recruit.

I mean, we’ve known for a long time, at least since the release of Raw Recruits in the 1980s, that college basketball programs don’t exactly follow the rule that says you’re not supposed to pay players, but usually they’re also not dumb enough to have the head coach openly discuss a payment to a prospect over the phone. I mean, that’s just common sense. This is why you have assistant coaches, Will.

But that whole FBI thing, and the ensuing NCAA investigations, it seems, have affected literally nothing.

Despite ongoing major infractions cases, three of those SEC schools have scored major recruiting coups this month: Auburn got a commitment from national top-five prospect Jabari Smith; LSU received a commitment from top-50 prospect Alex Fudge; and Alabama beat out Auburn and others for top-15 prospect J.D. Davison, one of several recent power moves by the Crimson Tide. Compliant schools are still losing out on the recruiting trail to schools that have not yet paid a price for alleged violations.

Ah, yes. About that.

Frank Martin (ironically, one whose school was named in the FBI investigation, though he hasn’t personally been implicated in anything):

“I know what’s going on,” said South Carolina coach Frank Martin. “I know who’s doing what. If I was a prosecutor, I’d go after people. But I’m not. I’m a coach. So I stay away from certain situations when I know what’s going on. I’m not going to recruit against them.

“But if nothing is done, the message is that cheating is O.K. You can do what you want and nothing happens. There’s cheaters in every profession, but they’ve got to be dealt with. This [FBI investigation] was like an IRS audit. Our business was audited, and when something is audited, you find the problems and fix the problems. Our business has yet to fix the problems. It’s time to fish or cut bait.”

Yeah. Pretty much.

See, the thing is, when we all know certain schools are breaking the rules and getting away with it, we all get a crystal clear message from the NCAA, and mostly we’re just trying to figure out if the NCAA is acting with incompetence or malice.

From time immemorial, situations like these have fed a belief that the NCAA majors in minors while allowing an underground economy to flourish. That might not be accurate, but the perception lingers in a league where programs under investigation keep landing recruits. “People are robbing banks and you’re pulling over old ladies for going 40 in a 35,” one SEC source said.

I mean, yeah.

Here’s the deal: I know that a lot of people think that it’s bullshit that the NCAA doesn’t allow players to be paid, and that’s fine, but what’s worse than having a rule on the books prohibiting payments to players and then only enforcing it when you feel like it, against certain schools that dare to try to punch above their weight. This is giving the business to a guy with a busted tail light on his 15-year-old hatchback while a Ferrari races by you at 120 miles an hour.

But really, didn’t we already know all of this?