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Mike Krzyzewski thinks college basketball corruption is ‘a blip’. Does he forget these Duke player scandals?

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Duke players have also been involved in the larger grassroots-to-NCAA corruption pipeline Coach K claims he knows nothing about.

SiriusXM Presents A Town Hall With Hall Of Fame Coach Mike Krzyzewski At Duke University Photo by Lance King/Getty Images for SiriusXM

As the FBI’s college basketball corruption trial for disgraced Adidas executives James Gatto and Merl Code and agency middle man Christian Dawkins nears its conclusion in a Manhattan courthouse this week, the biggest name in the sport is dismissing the wiretaps, the under-oath testimony, and the heaping pile of evidence that all suggests just how broken college hoops really is.

If there’s corruption in college basketball, Mike Krzyzewski is unaware of it, according to Mike Krzyzewski. The Duke coach addressed the federal trial for the first time on Monday, telling reporters, with a straight face, “I think college basketball is actually pretty clean.”

Here’s the full quote, via ESPN:

“I think [college basketball] is actually pretty clean,” he told ESPN on Monday.

“I really haven’t followed it that much,” Krzyzewski said about the trial during his team’s media day press conference on Monday. “I think it’s minute, it’s a blip. It’s not what’s happening. ... We haven’t lost guys because someone cheated. I haven’t paid attention to it because I haven’t been affected by it.”

It is very hard to believe Krzyzewski is telling the truth. Coach K knows as much about corruption in college basketball as anyone, because he’s been involved with this sport for five decades.

Duke has been playing the game for a long time

Take the story of Corey Maggette, the freshman phenom who helped lead Duke to the Final Four in 1999 and eventually became Coach K’s first ever one-and-done. Twenty years before the FBI put a spotlight on money changing hands between shoe company executives, “AAU” leaders, and athletes, Maggette was involved in an almost identical scheme before arriving at Duke.

Gary Parrish of CBS Sports explains:

For those unfamiliar, here’s the deal: A summer basketball coach named Myron Piggie made cash payments to Maggette when the elite recruit was still in high school, and that money came from a revenue pool that included donations from at least two sports agents.

Less than a year later, a federal grand jury handed down an 11-count indictment of Piggie that details the payments to Maggette. Piggie cut a deal and admitted to making the payments; Maggette admitted to receiving the payments. So none of this falls under the he said/she said umbrella, and the NCAA’s Jane Jankowski was quoted in April 2000 as saying that the NCAA “will have to determine if Duke, in fact, had an ineligible player in the NCAA tournament. And, if so, what monies would have to be returned for use of an ineligible player.”

Duke’s Final Four banner from that season still hangs in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

There’s also the story of Lance Thomas, the forward who helped Duke win the 2010 national championship. Thomas purchased $97,800 in jewelry in Dec. of 2009 when he was a member of the Blue Devils. He made a $30,000 downpayment. Years later, he was sued for failing to pay off the rest of the purchase.

The NCAA could have decided Thomas was retroactively ineligible and stripped Duke’s title banner, like they once did for Memphis’ Final Four appearance because of Derrick Rose’s allegedly faulty SAT score. Of course, Duke skirted passed NCAA discipline again. The issue of exactly how Thomas got the $30,000 for that downpayment was never addressed.

There are more recent examples, too

Marvin Bagley III was identified as a star from the moment he entered high school. When it came time for Bagley to enter the grassroots circuit, Nike made sure he’d be playing for them, and not for Adidas or Under Armour. Nike promptly created its very own for Bagley, Nike Phamily, which was run by his father.

Even with the best player in the country, Phamily struggled to win a game on the EYBL. Still, it was a big budget program with all the money flowing to the family of the star player. When it was time for Bagley to pick a college, he chose Duke, a Nike school.

In a great twist, Bagley would go on to sign his first pro shoe contract with ... Puma.

This isn’t transparent cheating like Louisville assistant Kenny Johnson handing Brian Bowen Sr. a bag of money at a gas station, but it’s an example of how the underbelly of college basketball really works. Coach K is not blissfully unaware of any of this.

Corruption in college basketball will exist for as long as amateurism does

The NCAA is making billions off of college basketball. The universities are making millions. There is simply too much money flowing through this sport for everything to remain above board as long as the NCAA outlaws the players from getting a piece of the pie.

Duke — the premier program in the sport — always has a way of staking by on plausible deniability to avoid the same trouble Louisville, Arizona and others could find themselves in now. Still, there have been Duke players who are a part of the larger grassroots-to-NCAA corruption pipeline, even if the program hasn’t been actively “cheating.”

There is no way around corruption in college basketball right now, as has been the case for Coach K’s entire time in the sport. Even if Duke is “clean,” Krzyzewski isn’t being truthful by telling the media this is all “a blip.”