Sports columnists, talk-show hosts, university presidents and their respective athletic directors have frequently used the phrase, “darkest moment,” when attempting to describe the past 48 hours in the college basketball world.
I disagree. Instead, I choose to believe it’s the sport’s finest hour. A chance to finally rid the landscape of crooked coaches, boosters and the endless money pit that has found its way into the club basketball world, our young stars’ pockets and the so-called leaders who coach them.
We’ve all seen the 1994 sports drama “Blue Chips,” right?
The film features star players Neon Boudeauz (Shaquille O’Neal) and Butch McRae (Penny Hardaway) taking bribes to play for beleaguered coach Pete Bell (Nick Nolte) at the fictional Western University.
Except in that movie, when Bell’s Dolphins beat Bobby Knight and his No. 1-ranked Indiana Hoosiers, federal agents didn’t come storming down the aisle with a search warrant in one hand and handcuffs in the other.
Back in the real world, the FBI brought the sport to its knees Tuesday after holding a press conference in New York announcing a slew of arrests stemming from a probe revealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to influence star athletes’ choice of schools, shoe sponsors and agents.
Among those arrested was University of Arizona assistant coach Emanuel Richardson, rocking the very foundation the city of Tucson and its university takes so much pride in.
Federal prosecutors have evidence from various wire taps and surveillance of at least three top high school recruits being promised payments of as much as $150,000, using money supplied by Adidas.
Reports Thursday indicated Arizona is allegedly tied to that exact amount for a prospective recruit identified as “Player 12” and were supposedly locked in a bidding war with the University of Miami.
The FBI is clearly not finished revealing its intricate investigation to the public. Dominoes will likely continue to fall at universities throughout the country in the coming weeks. The game is tarnished, and it’s time to make haste in correcting it.
As Arizona Republic columnist Dan Bickley said in his piece Wednesday, “the dirty charade is finally over.”
And not just for the Wildcats.
It’s time for the college basketball world to step up to the free-throw line and knock down that last-second shot, even if it is with the federal government’s help.
Brian M. Bergner Jr. is associate sports editor and a columnist for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and SoundCloud at @SportsWriter52, or on Facebook at @SportsAboveTheFold. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 928-445-3333, ext. 1106.