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Baylor is Probably Clear of the Basketball Scandal

Only six Adidas-affiliated programs have been named so far, but this could spread beyond the initial schools and perhaps beyond Adidas.

New Mexico State v Baylor Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images

The landscape of collegiate athletics suffered a tremor last Tuesday when the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York charged four NCAA assistant basketball coaches with federal corruption. Two Adidas employees, as well as a myriad of financial advisors, were also charged and arrested. The FBI has also opened up a hotline to receive calls from any other coaches, advisors, or random drunk UNC fans trying to get Coach K fired.

Essentially, last week was potentially the tip of the iceberg. Rick Pitino might not be the last head coach to go down for this, and it feels like a near certainty that other programs are going to get roped into all this. The point made often by CBS Sports Gary Parrish is that, once those already arrested are at the bargaining table, it’s more than likely someone will talk in order to bargain down charges.

That line of thinking is supported by the fact that practices of paying star college athletes and recruits under the table has been happening ever since it became clear that rich people like watching their favorite team win. Once TV (and later streaming) became ubiquitous, having a swish or stripes on certain players’ shoes became financially significant. Thus, an economic ecosystem for handlers, coaches, family members, and shoe company representatives was spawned out of the primordial sludge of amateurism. Now, it’s assumed that if you’re not paying players (and possibly getting kickbacks for steering a kid one way or another), you’re doing it wrong.

As far as I understand the legal stuff (and I certainly don’t understand a large chunk), the trick in this circumstance is that these kickbacks are going to public university coaches, which is to say, “public officials”. Thus, federal corruption charges. Oops.

Anyway, point being, everyone is waiting for the other Adidas (and possibly Nike or Under Armor) shoe to drop.

Baylor itself shouldn’t be in much danger of getting caught up directly in this scandal. Landing Perry Jones III, Quincy Miller, and Isaiah Austin in sequential recruiting classes as an Adidas program might draw eyes, but it has already drawn a lot of eyes from a lot of angles and has thus far passed muster. I’m also not sure how Baylor’s status as a private school affects things, but I’ll let lawyerly people speculate more in that realm. Additionally, the FBI probe has only been ongoing for the past three years, well before the recruitment periods of any of those three players. Plus, the FBI couldn’t have tapped EVERY program in the country, could they??? So unless there were conversations recorded or witness testimony identifying some payments that failed to land Baylor the recruits it wanted (or that the shoe company wanted Baylor to have, as it were…and let’s be real, that’s not likely), then Baylor’s coaching staff should be in the clear.

For what it’s worth, Mack Rhoades is also pretty confident Baylor is clean.

What everyone will be eagerly watching, though, is whether other top Adidas programs such as Kansas and UCLA get roped into this. For Baylor, Kansas is obviously of particular interest. No one knows, for now, what that decently high up Adidas employee might know and what he might share. If Louisville and Arizona are under fire, it’s no stretch to wonder whether Kansas will find itself under intense FBI scrutiny.

Of course, the argument could be made that Kansas is one of the first places a probe like this would have led. With such an immense network of supporters and an enormous brand value for Adidas, it’s hard to believe Kansas coaches or affiliates aren’t on some of those tapes already. If that does turn out to be the case, however, why wasn’t the FBI knocking on doors in Lawrence? Was it a lack of conclusive evidence to press charges, or did the investigation exonerate Kansas from wrongdoing?

I’m not saying Bill Self himself could get caught up in this. At most, an assistant coach would get got IF there was any funny business. Self knows how to work officials, after all.

Additionally, now that everyone knows the federal government cares about money changing hands over college shoe deals, is anyone really going to call or text about paying for recruits to wear a certain logo? This is another support for the argument that very few arrests could be made moving forward. The investigation is out in the open, and you can bet the prosecutors knew that once it went public, communications would go down anyone potentially involved took shelter. They waited three years just to make the present arrests, after all, so if there was even the chance of adding a few more names to the list, why would they make things harder on themselves?

Unless those already charged rat out others with enough corroborating evidence, my money is that most of the other powers in the sport are relatively safe, including Baylor and Kansas.

How might all of this change how recruiting works, though? How long is the market frozen? How long until some workaround is discovered, and the money begins to flow again? I don’t have a lot of faith that this is the beginning of money-generating athletes turning into money-making athletes. Maybe, but probably not. People really like to make money, though, and it’s hard to believe that this whole thing won’t get started up again once the coast is clear.