the BigAmateurism monologues

A series of events over the last 18 months—some unforeseeable—have created a perfect storm that will change college sports forever. The NCAA's bait an…
Aug 30th, 2021 | 1:15:16

54: United States v Gatto - The “Victim University” Absurdity

The NCAA’s infractions and enforcement case against NC State has been presented to an Independent Resolution Panel and is now under review for a final decision. As a predicate for an analysis of that case, this episode explains the context for the NCAA’s case against NC State. In 2017, NC State was implicated in a federal criminal investigation into “corruption” in men’s college basketball. NC State’s recruitment of Dennis Smith Jr. was a primary component (along with allegations involving Louisville and Kansas) of the criminal case against two Adidas representatives and an aspiring athlete-agent. Adidas has a long-term contract with NC State worth over six million dollars per year and is thus an “Adidas school.”. Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York alleged that the Adidas defendants funneled forty thousand dollars to an NC State assistant coach earmarked for Smith’s father in a scheme to guarantee Smith’s attendance at NC State. The defendants were indicted on multiple wire fraud counts and, after a lengthy trial, were found guilty by a jury. The prosecution’s case rested on a “Victim University” theory. That is, the defendants defrauded the universities when they offered scholarships—allegedly unbeknownst to the universities—to ineligible players and exposed the universities to the risk of NCAA violations. In formulating the “Victim University” theory, the trial judge essentially imported NCAA amateurism-based rules as the standard of conduct for the defendants. Thus, in a literal sense, the judge made violation of NCAA rules a criminal offense. This theory flies in the face of the realities of the talent acquisition market in high-stakes men’s basketball recruiting. It also offends the NCAA’s principles of “institutional control,” which hold the universities strictly liable and solely responsible for NCAA rules violations by those in their employ or under their control—including shoe and apparel companies. This episode explores the obvious tension between the treatment of universities as “victims” in the criminal context but their treatment as perpetrators in the NCAA infractions and enforcement process. These two views of culpability for NCAA rules violations are irreconcilable and shine a bright light on the impossible position institutions such as NC State face when transitioning from “victim” to “perpetrator.”