Wildcats’ Basketball Coaches, Players Reflect on State of Division I Basketball Amid NCAA Probe

Coach Bob McKillop led Davidson to the A-10 Championship during a tough year for college basketball, as other schools across the nation faced FBI investigations into their programs. Photo by Mitchell Leff (Atlantic 10 Conference Facebook page)

By: Olive Daniels ’19

Co-Editor in Chief

Will the FBI be probing Davidson’s athletic department anytime soon, searching for signs of NCAA rule violation? Probably not. The University of Arizona, however, is on edge; as are North Carolina State University, the University of Kentucky, and the University of Louisville [1, 2]. These schools, along with several others, are involved in an ongoing FBI investigation on the grounds of suspicion of violating the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) rules in their college basketball programs [3]. The FBI is exploring an allegedly corrupt network of coaches, agents, advisers, and outside companies funnelling money and bribes around, and sometimes to, talented college players [3].

Following revelations in September 2017 of an FBI investigation into alleged violations by four NCAA assistant coaches, the NCAA formed the Commission on College Basketball, chaired by former Secretary of State and current Stanford professor Dr. Condoleezza Rice, in October 2017 [4]. The commission’s stated purpose is “to fully examine critical aspects of Division I men’s basketball” [5]. The commission is specifically focusing on three areas: the relationship between NCAA officials member-institutions, coaches, and student-athletes with outside parties; the relationship between the NCAA and the NBA; and the best ways to promote transparency within the organization and its member-institutions [5].

The NCAA functions on the concept of “amateurism.” Its definition of the term prohibits any NCAA athletes from receiving any salary from athletics, playing with or holding a contact with a professional team, and benefitting from an agent or prospective agent [6]. Both the National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Football League (NFL) use their own regulations on professional eligibility to govern the relationship with the NCAA.

In 2005, the NBA established a minimum draft entry age of 19, known as the “one and done rule.” This meant that talented high school basketball players cannot go straight from high school to the NBA draft at age 18; instead they generally spend at least one season in college, playing for the NCAA, or play professionally in an overseas league until they turn 19, generally a less popular option. This rule, of course, benefits the NCAA significantly, essentially guaranteeing top talent in its annual March Madness tournament.

Davidson’s Peyton Aldridge ‘18 and Rusty Reigel ‘18 reflected on their experience playing against players and institutions benefitting from the one and done rule. “In terms of the one and done guys, once they are done with their first semester, they are done and start training for the draft,” Reigel said. “In terms of the hours we put in in the classroom, I don’t think [the term student-athlete] applies the same way.” Aldridge added that this is especially true at Davidson, given the nature of its rigorous academics.

Gayle Coats Fulks, Head Coach of the Davidson Women’s Basketball Team, also shared her insight on the matter. She explained that the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) requires draft declarees to be four years removed from their high school graduation date, making them usually around 21 and 22 years old. As a much smaller league, however, the WNBA has far fewer draft spots than the NBA does, which accounts, in part, for the difference in requirements, according to Coats Fulks. Additionally, “the WNBA is not quite as lucrative as men’s basketball,” she explained, so there is less motivation to get the best players in the league as quickly as possible.

The NFL has stricter minimum entry requirements, requiring that draft declarees must be at least three years removed from their high school graduation date. Davidson football player Kahleel Shaw ‘19 explained that he believes the three-year requirement “allows players at powerhouse football institutions to mature and develop mentally.”

These regulations, however, appear to have bred some of the corruption uncovered by the FBI. The questions surrounding player compensation and draft eligibility are not new ones, according to Davidson’s Athletic Director and incoming Chief Financial Officer Jim Murphy ‘78. He believes these issues are receiving so much publicity now because of “the magnitude of the dollars…it is just impossible to ignore.”

Davidson College President Carol Quillen echoed this sentiment, explaining that “when the NCAA was created, no one anticipated the incredible amount of money that men’s basketball and football would earn; so there is so much money at stake, that it’s difficult to fit all that money into a system that…didn’t anticipate that….I think that is one of the things that the NCAA is grappling with.”

Many complaints have argued that college players do not receive enough monetary compensation for the profit they bring to their schools, coaches, the NCAA itself, TV stations, and advertisers. Murphy pointed out, however, that much of the money generated by high-profile, winning basketball or football teams is “spent on other sports programs that don’t generate any revenue.”

Athletic scholarships are, according to some, an adequate form of player compensation. Murphy stated: “I do believe that in some way players are paid with a free education, a lot of attention, and the resources of a college or university.” Davidson Men’s Basketball Head Coach Bob McKillop agreed, explaining that players are being paid, “just not in tangible dollars.”

Reflecting on their experiences Aldridge and Reigel both agreed that scholarships to Davidson, as well as the opportunity to play college basketball at a high level, were payments in themselves. “Getting free schooling – that’s a big thing,” Aldridge commented. “There’s a life after basketball at some point.” Reigel added that simply having the opportunity to play basketball under a coach like McKillop for four years is a form of reward for him.

When it comes to calls for reform within the NCAA, Davidson has a unique standing due to its consistent demonstration of academic and athletic integrity, according to McKillop and Murphy. McKillop pointed to the maxim: “Sweep in front of your own door, and the world will become a clean place.”

McKillop explained that individual institutions “should not abdicate responsibility to the NCAA.” Pointing to Quillen as exemplifying strong, honorable leadership, he emphasized, “Each NCAA institution needs to accept that kind of responsibility and create those environments on campus.”

Quillen emphasized the importance of an educational lens in her view of the issues within the NCAA. “Davidson and colleges and universities generally…are…defined as educational institutions. Our purpose is education, and so I focus very much on our commitment and obligation to offer education. We play Division I sports here at Davidson because we believe that playing Division I sports has educational value.”

Quillen added that she believes the NCAA shares a similar focus on “the educational value of sports” that will influence its policies moving forward.

Murphy explained that the reward of winning, such as the NCAA basketball tournament, is so financially high, that it incentivizes immoral behavior within the system. “I have always talked about rewarding member schools based on educational goals and academic success [as opposed to just winning],” he explained. “I think if we awarded academic success the same way, that would speak very loudly to everyone involved…The NCAA, to [its] credit, is starting to do that. We are seeing the distribution of dollars in a small way being directed to schools based on academic success, and it is really great.”

Murphy reiterated McKillop’s praise of Davidson’s institutional integrity, and he predicted that this may allow Davidson to “lead discussions about reform.” “Here’s a college with very strong values that has been able to be successful at the Division I level, and perhaps, we can be held up as a success…that is then recognized on a national level,” he stated.

Coach Bob McKillop offers his perspective on the ways in which the NCAA and its member-institutions can benefit from reform. Photo by Emma Brentjens ’21

 

[1] Axson, Scooby. “List of Schools Implicated in NCAA Basketball Scandal.” ESPN, 23 February 2018.

[2] Schlabach, Mark. “FBI wiretaps show Sean Miller discussed $100K payment to lock recruit.” ESPN, 25 February, 2018.

[3] Sherman, Mitch. “ Explaining NCAA college basketball scandal.” ESPN, 23 February 2018.

[4] Rapaport, Daniel. “What We Know About Each School Implicated in the FBI’s College Basketball Investigation.” Sports Illustrated, 17 November, 2017.

[5] “Commission on College Basketball Charter.” NCAA, 2017.

[6] “Amateurism.” NCAA, 2018.

Comments are closed.