My first reaction to seeing the report from Yahoo! that Texas point guard Myck Kabongo would be suspended for the rest of the season by the NCAA was simple: Duh!
The kid lied to the NCAA. As Pat Forde wrote, Kabongo “provided inaccurate information to NCAA investigators when he was interviewed.” ESPN’s Andy Katz explained it as Kabongo neglecting to “give the NCAA all the information he had when asked.”
And, as anyone will tell you, lying to the NCAA is a cardinal sin. Ask Bruce Pearl. Or Brad Greenberg. Or Dez Bryant. The NCAA doesn’t have any subpoena power. They can’t force anyone outside of their control to talk to them. What they can do, however, is suspend a player or a coach that’s unwilling to speak with them. To ensure that the information they are given is the truth, the NCAA will do whatever they can to bring the hammer down on anyone they catch in a lie.
Ask Shabazz Muhammad. He was forthcoming about what the NCAA grilled him on, and he’s playing right now. (To be fair, the fact that his situation cleared itself up so quickly had a lot to do with a conversation overheard on a plane.)
Those are the rules the NCAA plays by. Kabongo knew them. He still “provided inaccurate information” and was caught doing so. Now he faces the consequences. It may not make sense that you can only park in front of your apartment building for two hours at any time of the day or night, but if you leave your car sitting there until the morning, you’ll be paying that ticket.
In the immortal words of Avon Barksdale, “Some things just stay the same, man. The game is the game.”
And therein lies the problem.
The issue here isn’t simply that Kabongo lied to the NCAA and got caught. He probably shouldn’t have done that, and when he got word that his season was over after Texas beat North Carolina at home last night, I’m sure the full weight of the regret for “providing inaccurate information” hit him. (Frankly, I have a tough time judging a 19 year old for trying to cover his tracks when he knows he messed up. God knows I did my fair share of lying to try and get out of trouble at that age.)
No, the issue here is that Kabongo was in a position where he needed to lie to the NCAA.
There are so many things wrong with the current structure of the NCAA. First and foremost, the fact that Kabongo is going to miss his sophomore season and damage, possibly irreparably, his standing as an NBA prospect over who footed the bill for an offseason workout and his association with an agent is ludicrous. Kabongo wants to get better, and to get better he needs to work out and train with the best. Those training sessions ain’t free. Jerry Powell, the New York-based trainer that worked out Kabongo on that fateful day in Cleveland, needs to make a living somehow.
But how is Kabongo supposed to pay for that? He’s not allowed to profit off of his ability, even though Texas is cashing eight figure checks for the rights to broadcast these “amateur” athletes and the NCAA signed an 11 figure — as in tens of billions of dollars — deal with CBS and Turner to broadcast the championship of the sport Kabongo plays. We can’t allow the players to see a return off their talent and their hard work when the NCAA has suits that need be paid and taxes they need to be exempt from.
The “student”-athletes can’t fight against these rights, either, because they don’t have a union. They don’t have a unified voice. They might be able to build one if they were willing take drastic measures and boycott a bowl game or a Final Four, but what kid is going to give up a chance to play in an event that big when they’ve been working their entire life to reach that goal?
And given how much money is on the line for the stars at the college level, what is wrong with them signing with an agent to ensure that they build their brand the right way and develop their skills to the point that they are a professional commodity? Is there really an issue with making things official with an advisor that they trust?
There are going to be a lot of people a lot smarter than me that put together words on this subject that make a lot more sense than what you just read.
But the bottom-line here is that we simply cannot accept the fact that “the game is the game.”
Because “the game is rigged, man.” Accepting the position that Kabongo was forced into as reality is a problem in an of itself.
So while it’s tough to be up in arms about Kabongo breaking a rule, it’s really quite simple to be up in arms about the fact that the rules are an injustice in the first place.