Suppose you were on the verge of throwing the year’s biggest party, but you weren’t sure how many guests could stay?
That’s the dilemma before NCAA President Mark Emmert, whose organization is a little more than two weeks away from its annual men’s basketball tournament.
The tournament annually holds the nation in thrall for three weeks as athletes from 68 schools chase a championship in arenas from sea to shining sea.
But as invitations to the tournament are being prepared, Emmert and his cronies must be in full panic over the prospect that his big dance, if you will, could be ruined by scandal.
And not just any scandal, mind you, but perhaps the biggest to hit college basketball since seven schools were rocked by a massive point shaving operation in the 1950s.
In this edition of sportsman behaving badly, the focus is on a sports agency, ASM Sports, and reported payments and loans from the agency to current and former players from a number of teams including some of the highest profile schools in the NCAA.
Those schools include North Carolina, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, Southern California, Alabama, Texas and Notre Dame, all names recognizable to even the most casual of sports fans.
There’s an allegation that former Maryland player Diamond Stone may have received a $14,000 payment. Coach Mark Turgeon said that neither he nor any members of his coaching staff had any contact with the agency.
Yahoo Sports reported Friday the presence of documents and bank records from ASM which turned up in the discovery phase of an ongoing federal investigation into wrongdoing in college basketball.
ESPN reported that current Arizona coach Sean Miller’s voice is heard on a wiretapped conversation discussing with one of the agents paying a potential recruit $100,000 to ensure that he would come to Tucson.
The probe, which has already produced arrests of assistant coaches, may not yield any further criminal charges.
But it appears that a number of these schools may have violated NCAA rules about impermissible benefits for athletes. And that’s where the fun may begin relative to the tournament.
If the athletes are deemed to have accepted benefits, they would be declared ineligible and the schools would have to vacate wins in any games they played in.
To that point, Louisville’s appeal of an NCAA sanction regarding coaches who allegedly provided prostitutes to basketball players was declined last week and the school was forced to give back tournament revenue and to vacate its 2013 national championship.
Indeed, schools that have been implicated are weighing the wisdom of allowing current players who might be involved to play in regular season and postseason games, thus risking the spectacle of having to give up tournament appearances.
This may place a potential pall over the tournament, as schools and their fans will be wondering if their celebrations will eventually be hollow.
There is, however, a silver lining to this turmoil, as it may finally force Emmert and the NCAA gang to admit that its model of denying athletes a cut of the pie is obsolete and needs to be scrapped to make their March party a worthwhile experience for everyone.
And that’s how I see it for this week.