7. All Programs Cheat
RCS: One of the interesting things about the UConn story is that you’ve written extensively on the subject, including in your book Sole Influence, and that your perspective on cheating in college basketball is particularly nuanced. You told The Big Lead a few years ago, it’s not "made up of black hats and white hats. They are all grey hats. They about all cheat."
If all programs cheat, with regards to cheating in recruitment, what balance – what shade of gray – should college basketball enforce?
Wetzel: Well there are a couple of things on that. College basketball makes these rules. If they want to change their rules, go ahead. I don’t necessarily agree with their rules. But this is what they have as their standard. This is what they sell to the American public. They claim that their tournament is pure. They get a great deal of the media to believe in their white-hat, black-hat scenario, which is absurd. “This guy’s shady, this guy’s a saint” – it doesn’t work that way. But that’s how it’s consumed.
The NCAA enjoys tax-exempt status and other benefits from the government based on this idea that they’re operating an amateur athletic organization and that this stuff doesn’t happen. That’s a promise they made to Teddy Roosevelt. If you take the UConn case, you say, “Well, if the UConn coaching staff points out an alum and agent to a top recruit, and that alum, with their knowledge, takes care of the kid and gets him surgery, lodging, transportation and all these things, and then the kid goes to UConn, how amateur is that?” And it isn’t just UConn.
What the NCAA sells to the people, what CBS sells to the people, and what they sell to the government so they don’t have to pay billions in taxes, is a farce. That’s probably more my problem with them. If they want to change the rule, if they want to pay taxes, I don’t care. That’s their rules. But if they’re going to have rules, I think someone should call them out.