These are strange and dark days for college basketball. A year ago, an FBI investigation exposed the worst kept secret in the sport: the black market that exists for recruits because of the NCAA’s outdated amateurism rules. That case went to court this month in Manhattan, with a guilty verdict coming down on Wednesday that puts serious jail time in front of the former Adidas executives and agency middleman who were on trial.
Meanwhile, a new college basketball season is set to begin in just a couple short weeks. At ACC Media Day on Wednesday, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim went in on the idea of paying college players, and took a shot at a former recruit who ended turning pro rather than honoring his commitment to the Orange. No less of an authority than LeBron James took notice.
LeBron James vs. Jim Boeheim happened on Twitter
Let’s start with Darius Bazley, the former five-star recruit who committed to Syracuse until he decided to renege on that commitment to join the G-League. Bazley ultimately reneged on that commitment, too, choosing instead to spend the entire year training for the NBA draft.
Bazley signed a deal with Klutch Sports, the agency best known for being run by LeBron James’ long-time friend Rich Paul. Klutch helped Bazley ink an endorsement deal from New Balance which will pay him a guaranteed $1 million and as much as $14 million. When Boeheim was asked about Bazley at media day, he had this to say:
Jim Boeheim on former Syracuse signee Darius Bazley getting guaranteed $1 million deal with New Balance:— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) October 24, 2018
“LeBron did a nice job helping his client. It is LeBron’s client, right?”
Bazley is, technically, a client of Klutch Sports, not James himself. Still, James couldn’t help but fire back:
Boeheim responded to James:
Not me! I’m happy for him! I wish him the best.— Jim Boeheim (@therealboeheim) October 24, 2018
This is all very silly, but congrats to Boeheim for the tweet.
Boeheim on college basketball players getting paid: ‘they can keep their meal money’
In case you were wondering how Boeheim really feels about college players making money, he once again tackled that issue, too. Guess what! Boeheim thinks amateurism is great and that college basketball players don’t deserve a paycheck.
Boeheim today: "I don't think we should ever compensate players...They can keep their meal money... "Everybody says, 'The coach makes this and the players (0).' The player is 17 years old. I've been working my whole life. There's a lot of 17-year-old kids that don't make money.”— Jake Smith (@iKicked_) October 24, 2018
Here’s the full quote, via Syracuse.com:
“I don’t think we should ever compensate players. I think we can do as much as we can for players. The cost of attendance is good. They get more meals now so they can keep their meal money. I think those are all good things and I think more of those things should have been done. But I don’t think you can compensate players straight out. What’s the salary? How much? Do you pay football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball? We got a great lacrosse team, do we pay those guys?
“The fallacy of the payment thing and they all say the same exact thing: ‘It’s a billion dollar business.’ No, it’s not. There might be income coming in, but it goes to all the other sports. It’s not just coming into basketball and we’re keeping it all. We’re bringing it in and it’s paying for all the other sports. So at the end of the day, I know for a fact at Syracuse that it’s zero. We have zero money left in the athletic department at the end of the year. Without paying anybody.
”And everybody says, ‘The coach makes this and the players (don’t make anything).’ The player is 17 years old. I’ve been working my whole life. There’s a lot of 17-year-old kids that don’t make money. Most of them. These 17-year-old kids are getting a $75,000 scholarship. And they compare that to a coach making all this money. What’s the comparison there? I’m a grown man. I’ve been working for 50 years. That’s just not a comparison. It makes no sense. You might as well say that NBA players aren’t making enough money because the owner’s worth $2 billion. So the players should be making more money. It just makes no sense.
”I think we should do as much as we can for the players under the system. We have improved it. We could get the parents to games. I think we could do that more easily. Anything we can do extending the players’ educations, make sure it’s paid for. We keep our players up there at Christmas -- let’s send them home. Let’s pay for them to go home a couple times. Why not? Why can’t we do that? Why shouldn’t we do that? I think they do that for other scholarship people. I think they can get transportation. Why don’t we talk about that?
“And the players’ images, fine. There’s a lot of pitfalls for that, but go ahead. If Tyus Battle can do a commercial in town and make money, I’m 100 percent for that. It’s not hurting anything. Let’s do that. And if there’s something about that they want to put in a trust, that’s fine, too.”
Boeheim has been on this bend for years. The fact that he’s actually open to letting athletes profit off their likeness qualifies as a major victory for player rights at this point. Boeheim, at age 73, is not changing his opinion on this. There is plenty of money floating around college sports, even if Boeheim wants you to believe Syracuse has “zero” in the athletic department.
This debate isn’t going anywhere. There are still two more trials left in the FBI corruption case. The G-League is offering elite high school players $125K to skip college. The NBA is looking at abolishing its age limit in time for the 2022 draft. Meanwhile, a black market will still exist as long as there’s amateurism, and now people are going to federal prison for a long time because of it.
There will continue to be public fights between people like Boeheim and people like James. The NBA and the NCAA need to figure this out for real before more people end up in jail for breaking college sports’ outdated rules.