25 February 2018 | It Was Coming All Along


My mother is a big fan of the University of Arizona's basketball team. Football, too, as she has season tickets for both sports, but basketball is where her heart lies. Not surprising for a woman who was voted "Most Athletic Female" with a picture of her holding a basketball in her senior high school yearbook.

When several people were arrested by the FBI last year in connection with an investigation into recruitment practices in college sports, one of them was an assistant coach to UA basketball head Sean Miller, Emmanuel Richardson. Miller himself was not named in any indictment or accused of any wrongdoing. For me, that meant it was only a matter of time before something came out. But of course, since he wasn't implicated, it would have been wrong to assume outloud that was the case.

My mother's bank had used Miller as a spokesperson for some of their services, and had one of those life-size cutouts of him greeting customers as they entered. The day after the arrest of the assistant coach, that cutout was removed. My mother said that employees were instructed not to say exactly why. This perturbed my mother who wondered if she should move her accounts to another financial institution, part of that "innocent until proven guilty" shield that people tend to use in these situations when they feel under attack. I don't know if she ever did.

I didn't have the heart to tell her that she should probably wait on that, and now it seems for good reason. Whenever some middle management type gets in trouble and is investigated, you should automatically assume that law enforcement always looks at the person above him: what did his boss know and when did he know it? If it turns out that, hey, it really was just an assistant coach doing all sorts of bad things and somehow managed to keep the head coach completely in the dark, well there you go. That's entirely possible. It's not probable, but if you're investigating possible financial crimes, I think that's the first thing they teach you in detective school. Who else benefits? Usually a higher up.

I won't say I'm indifferent about college sports because all of these programs--especially at the major universities--are corrupt and sleazy. I think they all cheat. They exploit student athletes who in turn, take advantage of loose rules and a massive support system that an alleged institution of higher learning gives them at the expense of other students. And for me, like I said, news about Miller was coming all along. He may be completely innocent of everything, but it's obvious that he can't maintain his "I didn't know" routine anymore now that lordy, there are tapes. And while I feel bad for my mom, I can't wait to see the dissembling from boosters and sports fans who routinely refer to athletes as "kids" and how unfair it will be to punish them (and the program) for the sins of a couple people.

This is right after they've told everyone how moral and upright they are and believe in following the rules. Except, of course, when it's their team. Then the rules have to change.