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Sports Authority

Mazurek: How to deal with NCAA sanctions

| Monday, February 19, 2018

This year’s college basketball season has been as exciting as ever.

But there’s a cloud hanging over it. That cloud is the FBI probe into the influence of shoe companies over college basketball. Weeks before the season started in early November, the FBI released information that was enough to arrest assistant coaches and suspend players at half a dozen schools, in addition to forcing longtime head coach Rick Pitino out at Louisville.

But the other shoe has yet to drop, and media reports this week reminded the world of that.

One source in a report from Pete Thamel was particularly dramatic, saying, “Hall of Fame coaches should be scared, lottery picks won’t be eligible to play and almost half of the 16 teams the NCAA showed on its initial NCAA tournament show this weekend should worry about their appearance being vacated.”

If that’s the case, the NCAA has a problem. It’s obviously morally defunct and a sham of an organization, but that’s common knowledge.

A much more pressing problem is how the NCAA tournament will look if half of the field is missing due to postseason bans. If Thamel’s source said half of the top-16 teams in the committee’s early rankings would be affected, we can extend that out to half of the top-64 teams in the field as well.

So with roughly half of the field set to be ineligible, here are some of my thoughts on how to still have an entertaining, fair NCAA tournament.

Shorten the field to 32 teams

This is probably the easiest solution, but it’s so boring. The field was 32 teams in the mid-1970s. You know what else happened in the mid-1970s? Stagflation. We don’t want that, there are better options.

Sanctioned teams play, but with no shoes

This option is high on the justice and irony meters. Shakespeare would be proud. Since taking bribes from big shoe companies was what got schools and players into this mess, it seems fitting that they have to play the NCAA tournament without the symbol of their wrongdoing.

Ban sanctioned teams, but loosen qualification requirements

This is the option to go with if we want to keep the field at 64 (or 68) teams, but still want to ban the teams with sanctions. With many of the sanctioned schools likely to be big-name programs, interest in the tournament may dip. Since the general viewer would care about a local high school team about as much as some super small college who won the Tequila Sunrise league title to slip into the field, why not blow the roof off the qualification barriers? Besides, my co-rec team — the South Quad Players — may have a chance.

Let sanctioned teams play in their own tournament

This could be extremely fun. No longer would big-name schools who shelled out major bucks to agents and shoe companies have to hide in the shadows. Each year, all the schools sanctioned for these shenanigans could play in their own tournament of cheaters.

As an added twist, since the shoe companies are paying college players just like they sponsor NBA athletes, each school can call in any NBA player with the same footwear contract it has. Louisville losing at halftime? Good luck guarding NBA MVP candidate James Harden, who also rocks Adidas.

NCAA tournament happens as normal and there are no sanctions

You may think this to be just as unrealistic as the others, given the likely severity of the FBI probe’s findings. But knowing what we know about the NCAA, this is surprisingly probable. Why risk a ratings nosedive when the only thing at stake is the integrity of the game?

That hasn’t mattered to the NCAA for years, and something tells me it won’t start caring now.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Marek Mazurek

Marek is a senior history major and is a former resident of Carroll Hall. He has lived in Mishawaka or South Bend for all 21 years of his life and covers Notre Dame football and men's basketball. He has loads of hand-eye coordination but lacks the height to be any good. Marek is also a proud esports supporter.

Contact Marek