- - Sunday, February 25, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

There was a time when a corruption scandal like the one now involving the FBI and wiretaps and illegal payoffs involving players at many of the top schools in the country — including Michigan State, Alabama, Duke and others, including Maryland, according to reports — would have been a fatal blow.

This is not that time.

CBS and Turner Broadcasting are about to begin broadcasting their Super Bowl: March Madness, the NCAA tournament that consumes much of the country for three weeks — programming that the networks paid $10.8 billion for, starting in 2011 and running through 2024.

And nothing — certainly not some little scandal that involves up to 20 Division I schools, most of whom will be part of the NCAA tournament — is going to get in the way of their television show.

Which begs the question — what criminal act would it take to stop the college sports money train? I’d say the sexual assault of young boys and girls, but that would be inaccurate — see Michigan State and allegations of sexual assault in the basketball program, the entire Larry Nasser disgrace, the former school and the USA Gymnastics doctor recently convicted of assaulting dozens of young girls.

Then, of course, there’s Penn State, where the school president and athletic director went to jail for their role in the Jerry Sandusky cover-up, yet it has been business as usual at Happy Valley, with no reminder of the damage done there.

So while it seems like college basketball is under severe attack as this FBI payoff probe unfolds, the reality is it will likely be a glancing blow. Coaches may be fired or perhaps even go to jail, college presidents may resign and players may leave programs.

The NCAA will flex its weak muscles and declare changes must come.

“These allegations, if true, point to systematic failures that must be fixed and fixed now if we want college sports in America,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement released after the news of the FBI college basketball scandal broke.

“Simply put, people who engage in this kind of behavior have no place in college sports. They are an affront to all those who play by the rules.”

Nice speech, Mighty Mouse.

College sports will treat the latest scandal like a blemish that can be covered up with makeup. The money train will chug along, and all the so-called damage? The cost of doing business.

Nothing will change until the consequences of such crimes in college sports are so severe that the fear of getting caught overrides the rush of success.

Nothing will change until the cost of doing business is so severe that payoffs and cover-ups simply won’t be worth the risk anymore.

Nothing will change until penalties reach into the pockets of television network executives — the true power behind college sports.

So nothing will change.

If, as believed, the scope of this FBI investigation is so broad that it could involve some of the game’s most important programs — colleges like Duke, Michigan State and North Carolina — the cost of cleaning up college basketball may be deemed too high.

In other words, what kind of tournament would CBS and Turner Broadcasting be paying for if, let’s say, Duke, Texas, Kentucky, Kansas, Notre Dame and others were not part of the programming? In other words, consequences were so severe that it included no tournament appearances and no television games?

You know, like Maryland was hit with nearly 30 years ago for simply giving Rudy Archer a ride?

College basketball may seem like it is in the eye of the hurricane now, but the storm’s likely to turn out be just a tropical depression. A hurricane leaves visible damage behind. Don’t expect to see that.

Thom Loverro’s podcast “Cigars & Curveballs,” is available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver network.

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