Expect more to come in FBI probe
Knocking it around ona couple of sporting subjects …
• The news hit with brick-like force: An FBI sting that produced indictments charging assistant basketball coaches at four NCAA Division I colleges with accepting bribes from shoe companies to steer athletes their way, as well as to a desired school, will be felt for a long time.
Repercussions will be felt in the college basketball world for a long, longe time.
Already, it has led to the firing of Louisville's Rick Pitino.
Wilsonville resident Jim Gatto, the head of sports marketing at Adidas, was the man fingered on the sporting apparel side. But don't believe for a minute that Nike won't come up as well before the investigation runs its course. Three of the four assistant coaches named in the indictments worked for programs that carry endorsement contracts with Nike.
Don't believe, either, that basketball is the only sport in which such shenanigans are happening. Football will join the party at some point. Illegal money is changing hands in that sport, too.
And don't believe this is a recent phenomenon. Sonny Vaccaro, who pioneered such corruption when he worked for Nike and Adidas and influenced players' college basketball choices in the 1980s and '90s, told ESPN on Wednesday that this kind of thing has gone on "forever."
The poster boy in the FBI's investigation is Brian Bowen, who was allegedly paid $100,000 to attend Louisville. Ironically, the five-star forward out of La Porte, Indiana, visited Oregon before finally deciding to sign with the Cardinals.
• I called Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle to get his reaction. I first asked if the OSU program is under investigation.
"Not as far as I know," Tinkle said.
If the Beavers are being investigated by the FBI, I'm pretty sure Tinkle would know.
Tinkle said he and his coaching staff have not been involved in any under-the-table payments to lure recruits.
"We sell the value of the basketball program at Oregon State, the education they will receive and what we're going to put them through to help them grow into fine young men," Tinkle said. "Our job is teach and mentor and inspire them into adulthood. I'm proud to work at a place that values that.
"As coaches, we're ultimately judged by wins and losses. At Oregon State, we go about it in a way that we can look ourselves in a mirror. And we're not the only school that works that way."
Two of the four assistant coaches worked at Pac-12 schools — Arizona and Southern Cal. Tinkle personally knows both of them, as well as a third assistant involved, Auburn's Chuck Person. Tinkle said he wasn't unaware that illegal inducements were happening.
"We've been involved with recruits we felt we had a good chance to get, and at the 11th hour, a third party steps in and wants certain things," the fourth-year OSU coach said. "That's when we walk away. You hear things all the time on the recruiting trails, but it's not a circle we travel in."
Tinkle said he welcomes the investigation.
"If the allegations are true, if it can be cleaned up, it makes our game better," he said. "It doesn't take away from the vast majority of coaches and programs that are doing it the right way.
"We can argue whether college student-athletes should be paid, but right now, they can't be, other than the 'cost-of-attendance' stipends. At Oregon State, we follow the rules. We can only control what we do."
It's too bad other schools don't adhere to such a philosophy.
Pitino is like major league baseball's Bary Bonds and Roger Clemens, who were greats before they chose to use performance-enhancing drugs. Three decades ago, as a young -- and ostensibly clean -- coach, Pitino took Providence to the Final Four. Now his hands are filthy, and he has plenty of company.
Such an investigation has been a long time coming. I'm hoping it will help turn a lurid situation in college basketball into one in which the playing field is much closer to level. But I'm not holding my breath.
• It will be interesting to see if any of the schools participating in Nike's 16-team "PK80" tournament in Portland over the Thanksgiving Weekend will be implicated. So far, none of them have, and the roster includes big names such as Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State and Connecticut.
On Monday, a day before the investigation's public revelation, Trail Blazers CEO Chris McGowan spoke of the local NBA franchise's role in the event.
"We're heavily involved with it," McGowan said. "We're responsible for tickets, sponsorship and operations. We've been working very closely with all the parties.
"It's going to be a phenomenal event. It doesn't happen that often where you get that many teams together. It's great that it's coming to Portland. It will be interesting to see how the city handles all those people coming into our community and being on a national stage. Who knows what can happen in future years as it relates to future college basketball events?"
• Portland, incidentally, got passed over again in its second recent attempt to play host to the NBA All-Star Game. The league has informed McGowan that the city won't be a finalist in bids for the 2020 and '21 gala.
McGowan said Portland may try again when bidding opens for the 2022 All-Star Game.
"It's been a plight to get one for Portland," he said. "We deserve one. Our fans deserve one. Paul (Allen, Blazers owner) deserves one. Hopefully, we'll continue to have positive conversations with the league. I'm sure we'll bid again."
The league's excuse for denying Portland has always centered on the lack of a headquarters hotel in the city. The new Hyatt Regency at the Oregon Convention Center — which has broken ground and is scheduled for completion in 2019 — changes that.
"I'm encouraged by the hotel developments going on in the city," McGowan said. "There are a lot of good things happening that can position ourselves to get one at some point. And having big national events like 'PK80' helps."