A Fix for NCAA ‘Cesspool’ After Bribe Scandal? Pay Players, Experts Say

An alleged bribery scheme uncovered by a federal investigation into men’s college basketball continued to widen Wednesday — exposing what college sports experts say is a recruiting system plagued by problems and crying out for reform.

But overhauling a wildly popular sports institution, one that has proven to be a consistent moneymaker for top-tier colleges and coaches, advertisers and bookmakers — bringing in millions upon millions a year — will require sweeping changes that such experts say must start with the NCAA.

One fix that some say could help solve the problem? Pay the players.

“There’s this underground network already going on of secret deals and corruption,” said Marc Edelman, an associate law professor focusing on sports and gambling at Baruch College in New York City.

“The most reasonable way to resolve this matter would be to overturn the NCAA principle of amateurism, which would force the compensation of college athletes into an open and above-board market,” he added, “one that would be observable and transparent.”

B. David Ridpath, an associate professor of sport administration at Ohio University, agreed that it’s time for colleges and universities to take a look at compensating student-athletes as a way to protect them from being exploited.

“They’re kids who are essentially being pimped out by adults so that others can make money,” said Ridpath, author of the forthcoming book, “Alternative Models of Sports Development,” which examines the intersection of athletics and academics.

Related: Louisville Coach Blames a ‘Few Bad Apples’ in Scandal

Prosecutors say as much as $150,000 was pledged to at least three top high school recruits to attend two universities sponsored by Adidas. The money was allegedly supplied by the shoe company. None of the athletes were identified in court documents.

An Adidas executive and four assistant basketball coaches — representing Auburn University, Oklahoma State University, the University of Arizona and the University of Southern California — were among the 10 people charged on Tuesday.

The colleges have said they were “shocked” and “appalled” by the allegations. And Adidas said Tuesday that it was “unaware of any misconduct and will fully cooperate with authorities to understand more.”

On Wednesday afternoon the fallout deepend: The University Louisville, which outed itself, said it was putting head coach Rick Pitino and Athletic Director Tom Jurich on paid leave in response to the scandal, although neither was named in the criminal complaint.

Eastern Kentucky v Louisville

Head coach Rick Pitino looks on during a game Dec. 17, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.