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The FBI’s decision to continue to enforce the NCAA’s bylaws for them is shameful

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The question that has hung over college basketball more than any other since the FBI first arrested 10 people in their investigation into corruption in the sport back on September 26th is this: When will Kansas get caught up in the mix?

Kansas, like Louisville, is one of the flagship programs sponsored by Adidas, so the reasoning stood that if Adidas was willing to pay players to play for Louisville, they would be doing the same for Kansas. On Tuesday evening, we got our answer, as the FBI added additional charges to Adidas executives Jim Gatto and Merl Code and a runner for an ex-NBA agent, Christian Dawkins, that looped the Jayhawks into this mess.

It started with a player that appears to be Billy Preston, a former McDonald’s All-American forward that never ended up playing for the Jayhawks this season. Preston’s mother, according to the documents released by the FBI on Tuesday evening, received roughly $90,000 from Adidas in exchange for her son’s commitment to Kansas.

But Preston never actually played for Kansas. The excuse that the Jayhawks used was a single-car accident that Preston was involved in prior to the start of the season, and an ensuing investigation into where the money came from to pay for the car that he was driving.

Preston is not what Kansas should be worried about.

Silvio De Sousa is.

A native of Angola, De Sousa was initially a member of the Class of 2018, but he graduated at the end of the first semester and enrolled at Kansas for the second semester to help bolster the front court depth of a team that desperately needed it. And while he averaged just 4.0 points and 3.7 boards, De Sousa did play a big role in Kansas winning the Big 12 tournament — starting center Udoka Azubuike did not play because of a knee injury and De Sousa averaged 10.0 points and 9.7 boards in the three wins — and grabbed 10 boards and played some critical minutes as the Jayhawks upset Duke in the Elite Eight.

He didn’t, however, play any role in Kansas winning their 14th straight Big 12 regular season title, and in the end, he may end up being the player that costs Bill Self his streak.

Because, according to the FBI, Adidas paid at least $20,000 to De Sousa’s guardian to earn what was a surprise commitment in late-August of 2017, money that was earmarked to pay back another shoe company who had already invested in De Sousa to ensure a commitment to a program that they sponsored. De Sousa played for an Under Armour sponsored AAU team and high school team and was long considered a lock for Maryland, Under Armour’s flagship basketball program.

And that is where Kansas could end up being in trouble.

As we’ve seen before, if the NCAA can determine that a player was actually ineligible at the time that he played in games, they can go back and vacate those wins. That’s what they did to Memphis in 2008, when Derrick Rose was ruled retroactively ineligible because of an issue with an SAT score; that’s why Self and Kansas, in the NCAA’s eyes, did not actually beat anyone when they won the 2008 national title. It happened with Louisville just last year, when the 2013 national title banner came down because players were ruled retroactively ineligible for receiving “impermissible benefits” in the form of strippers and sex workers from an assistant coach.

To be clear, Kansas is not the only school and Self is not the only coach that may be in trouble after this latest document was released. The FBI also determined that a player that appears to be Dennis Smith Jr. received at least one payment of $40,000 from Adidas, funneled through a member of the N.C. State coaching staff, to ensure that he would remain committed to the Wolfpack. Mark Gottfried, who is currently the head coach at CSUN, was the head coach of N.C. State at the time.

That’s not a good look for CSUN. It’s also CSUN and an N.C. State era that Wolfpack fans would be happy to see erased from the history books.

Which is why Kansas is who everyone is talking about.

This may be the end of the Kansas Big 12 title streak.

But that’s not really the story here.

Because my biggest takeaway from reading even more legal documents pertaining to this FBI investigation is this: What in the world is the FBI doing enforcing the NCAA’s arcane, made-up and exploitative rulebook for them?

(J Pat Carter/Getty Images)

Read this passage, taken from what was released yesterday:

The scheme described herein served to defraud the relevant universities in several ways. First, because the illicit payments to the families of student-athletes described herein rendered those student-athletes ineligible to participate in Division I athletics, scheme participants conspired to conceal these payments from the universities, thereby causing them to provide or agree to provide athletic-based scholarships and financial aid under false and fraudulent pretenses.

[…]

In doing so, the scheme participants interfered with the universities’ ability to control their assets and created a risk of tangible economic harm to the universities, including … the possible disgorgement of certain profit-sharing by the NCAA.

Put another way, the victims of these “crimes” were the universities because these players hid the fact that they were ineligible, received scholarships that NCAA rules stipulate they should not have received and put the universities at risk of not receiving their share of the $1 billion brought in by the NCAA tournament this season.

Think about that for a second.

The FBI is out here spending all this time and all these taxpayer dollars investigating NCAA violations.

Each of the universities here, each of the “victims” in these investigations, banked eight or nine figures off of the work and the likeness of these unpaid amateurs.

And they are victims because those unpaid amateurs got themselves a payday that amounts to a week or two of NCAA president Mark Emmert’s $1.9 million salary.

If the FBI really wanted to investigate a criminal issue that matters, they should look into the potential illegalities in the NCAA restricting the ability of these athletes to profit off of their own name and their own likeness.

Until then, they should get the hell out of college basketball and let the NCAA continue to try — and continue to fail — to enforce their own shameful bylaws.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.