The corruption and bribery scandal surrounding college basketball has cast a pall over the upcoming season, even in the eyes of Dick Vitale, perhaps the sport’s biggest proponent.
“I’m fed up with this,” Vitale said in a phone interview with USA Today. “I love the game and care about it so much. It just frustrates me. …
“You want to get excited this time of the year,” he added. “ … But hanging on your back like a thousand pound weight is what the FBI is going to do.”
In fact, the controversy is turning some college hoops fans toward the NBA, Vitale said anecdotally.
“You want to be able to talk about the game in a positive way. But I’m out at lunch yesterday, and a guy says, ‘Man, I’ll just follow the NBA now Dick because they give them the cash, they play,’” he said. “How can I argue? It’s frustrating because it’s a topic that is going to dominate the college scene until this comes to a conclusion.”
While Vitale calls the notion that he’s an apologist for his coaching brethren “so unfair it’s unreal,” he said he believes recently-ousted Louisville coach Rick Pitino was not aware one of his assistants facilitated a $100,000 payment from Adidas to the family of Brian Bowen in exchange for the recruit’s commitment to the Cardinals basketball program.
To clean up the sport going forward, Vitale said, “The NCAA needs a wakeup call, and they have to spend their money. They need to get those sleazy characters away from being involved in the game, and they need to finance summer camps. Pay to bring the kids in, utilize high school coaches. Spend your millions on that, and I think we could see some positives. But talk is talk. We’ve got to clean this damn thing up. It doesn’t start with committees. It starts with action.”