Cheating their way to Chicago

The college basketball coaching fraternity doesn't need a new perception. It needs a new reality.

Updated: October 14, 2003, 2:02 PM ET
By Adrian Wojnarowski | Special to ESPN.com

This is the fitting story of the emergency Division I basketball coach's ethics summit, the inspiration for the coaches within one conference to purchase plane tickets and fly into Chicago for Wednesday morning. Mere months ago, word of the mandatory meeting had reached a national newspaper and inspired the coaches gathered for one mid-major league meeting to insist that they couldn't be bothered with the National Association of Basketball Coaches mandatory declaration of attendance.

Nobody cared. Nobody could be bothered. And then, suddenly, everyone had a change of heart.

Eventually, the NABC sent letters with a condition connected to a failure to appear on Oct 15. No, it wasn't the brutal beating the profession's image has endured this past year that changed minds. It wasn't articulate pleas of organization director Jim Haney and president Kelvin Sampson. Sorry, but no one had an epiphany.

As it turned out in one conference -- and others, to be sure -- no head coach wanted to lose his second "Christmas Bonus," the scalping of those Final Four tickets -- especially for Monday night's national championship game.

Everyone isn't Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams and Lute Olson, legends with easy access to courtside comps. So, here is the motivation for climbing on an airplane Wednesday morning for Chicago and making it to the Ethics Summit.

It wouldn't just be a rule they wouldn't be able to break come April, but a law.

Welcome to college basketball.

Here's the reason Wednesday is at best a public relations move to alter perception, and at worst, a complete waste of time: The community of coaches is gone. Ultimately, too many don't care about the profession. They care about themselves. Why would someone make a decision for the perception of the larger brethren of coaches, when his mind is fixated on his own success and survival? If I'm cheating, I'm doing it for my job, my money, my prestige. There are two reasons to cheat: I want to become a rich, famous coach, or I want to stay a rich, famous coach.

As the cheaters see it, it's about survival.

Everyone insists the cheating is a by product of pressure, but this is ultimately is a cop-out. It's an issue of character.

Brady
Brady
It's offensive to me that they're going to tell me how to act. I'm under contract with LSU, not the NCAA. I'll be there. I want my Final Four tickets, otherwise I wouldn't go.
John Brady,
LSU head coach

Listen, there are a lot of struggling coaches who come to a crossroads: Do I cheat and save my job, or refuse to compromise my principles and maybe go down with the program. Believe it or not, there are a lot of coaches refusing to compromise themselves. Trouble is, they too quickly become ex-coaches.

So, when a coach, LSU's John Brady, in one of the dirtiest conferences in the nation -- probably the dirtiest, if you just go on the Southeastern Conference's NCAA investigations, sanctions and general industry belief -- doesn't think there is a problem, what's the use?

For whatever reason, the bottom line is this: Brady doesn't care that's there's a problem. Whether he is part of the problem, I don't know, but how could someone coach in the SEC and believe this issue isn't even worth discussing within his fraternity?

"I understand what they want to do but I don't need anybody telling me how to act," Brady told ESPN.com's Andy Katz. "I answer to my chancellor and my athletic director, and as long as they're OK with me I don't care what everybody else thinks. It's offensive to me that they're going to tell me how to act. I'm under contract with LSU, not the NCAA. I'll be there. I want my Final Four tickets, otherwise I wouldn't go."

Nice. Really nice. Hey, he wants his Final Four tickets, so he'll suffer through the proceedings in Chicago. He won't be alone. Together, they'll sit there, roll eyes, check watches and decide which AAU coach that they'll sell their tickets to so he can re-sell them for five times the face value. Wednesday's meeting in Chicago is a public relations move and rest assured, they'll lecture a great deal on changing the plunged perception of college basketball coaching.

The problem is, college coaching doesn't need a new perception.

It needs a new reality.

Adrian Wojnarowski is a columnist for The Record (Northern N.J.) and a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPNWoj8@aol.com.

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