In advance of the 2017-18 season, the Big 4 basketball coaches joined The Buffalo News for a conference call on a variety of subjects. Here, UB coach Nate Oats, Canisius coach Reggie Witherspoon and St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt share thoughts on the FBI investigation into college basketball:
Q: The people at the FBI might have a strong opinion on what's going on here in your sport. I'm wondering what how the FBI investigation with Louisville is affecting you.
Oats: I think it's great. I think it's the best thing to happen. Maybe it affects Mark a little bit more at the A-10, I don't know. At this level, nobody is getting paid, but I think it cleans everything up. It's probably the best thing that's happened to our sport as far as cleaning it up, in my opinion.
Q: Do you think, at your level, it's possible for what's happening at the high level. In other words, what's happening at the high level could affect the MAC in some way.
Oats: I don't feel like that. I don't feel like the kids we're recruiting, and are coming here, nobody is offering any money for them. Maybe some of the other guys have other opinions, but I don't feel like we've ever lost out on a kid. If you look at where the money is going, it's going to the top 20-25 players in the country that are supposed to be one-and-done. Agents aren't going to put money into a kid that's supposed to be in school for three or four years. They're going to put their money in a kid that's one year in college, then the pros.
I don't really feel like it's affected us, but I do feel like it's cleaned up the sport immediately, and I think that helps everybody on every level.
Schmidt: Everybody knows in the business, for the most part, who does it right and who doesn't. I think with the FBI coming in, I think it's like a shot to the jaw. As coaches, you always know if you cheat, and you get caught, you could get fired. The NCAA is going to bring you out there, and you're going to sit in front of them, and be grilled. You just never knew that the FBI would get involved. They're treating the coaches like they're mafia. Instead of getting fired, you can do prison time.
That just changes the ballgame. Is it going to clean things up? It's never going to fully clean it up. Whenever money is involved, with the billion-dollar business that we're in, whenever there's that amount of money, there's always going to be guys who shortcut. Certain guys aren't going to do it the right way. With this investigation, it's really made people think twice about doing it. Rather than getting fired, you're going to do prison time. I don't care if it's six minutes or six days, no one wants to be involved in that.
It's been happening. Everybody knows it's been happening. It happens at different levels with different price tags. In the long run, everybody has a black eye now. That's the shame of it all, in my opinion. You got really good coaches that aren't coaching, who got fired because they wouldn't cheat. That's the sad part about this thing. You've got really good coaches that did it the right way and aren't coaching, anymore, and to me that's the shame of it.
Q: Like who, Mark? Who do you have in mind when you say that?
Schmidt: I don't want to bring up names, but everybody knows good guys that got fired because they had character and wouldn't do it.
Witherspoon: I wonder, and a lot of this remains to be seen, is if this FBI investigation reveals more than what we think really happened, I don't know. None of us were born the first time there was a gambling situation in our sport. Maybe people thought we were going to clean it up, but every so often there's a gambling problem. Right now, there are four different coaches and a resignation of an administrator.
I'm certain that they're still sorting their way through it. Those things specifically related to an FBI investigation and findings, but I don’t know, but I'm certain that they're not finished. Based on what has happened already, I'm not certain it will have the kind of impact that people think.