Are agents intractable from college hoops?

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College hoops isn’t clean. Ask Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.

Nati Harnik/AP
Jim Delany

In a USA Today story earlier this week, he was frank about what he termed a “corruption issue,” or what the rest of us call paying for players. From the article:

“There is a loss of confidence among many coaches that the rules are being complied with. The best way I can describe it is a sense of cynicism,” he told the paper.

“I’m talking about the corruption of the youth basketball program, the money that’s used to influence recruiting. And ultimately the buying of players, either through third parties or through coaches or coaches and third parties — agents. I can’t tell you if it’s three institutions or whether it’s 15. But make no mistake about it; it’s happening.. .. It’s a corruption issue.”

Is every school doing it? No. But every time a school gets caught (like USC) or has a rumor tossed out there (like Kentucky dealt with last week), it’ll get more and more attention.

Problem is, it’ll never get solved because someone will always figure out a way to circumvent the rules. Gary Parrish explains how it’s done:

… would have an agent taking care of a family and seizing control of the recruitment, then cutting a deal with a school’s staff to send the player to the school in exchange for help when it comes time for any other future pros on that school’s roster to formally select representation.
Think of it as a big circle.

The agent takes control of the high school prospect, then sends the prospect to a college coach who repays the agent, not with cash, but by helping him sign players who will later exit the program, at which point the agent sends another prospect to the college coach, and on and on it goes. It’s a never-ending game of “I’ll send you one if you send me one,” the perfect exercise for the coach with a conscience in that it allows him to convince himself that he “didn’t pay anybody” all while directly benefitting from an improper relationship between a prospect and agent.

Parrish says that college football doesn’t need this sort of arrangement because agents generally only deal with players once they get into college. College hoops has a bigger issue because everyone knows who’s headed to the NBA from an early age.

And if everyone wants to play in the NBA, good luck getting rid of the agents who supposedly facilitate the process.

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller, usually talkin’ hoops. Click here for more.