Idaho State Tempted By That Big Sky Basketball Payday?
College athletics can be a dirty game. Boosters with money to give away glad-handing recruits, paying their way to a commitment to their schools, ensuring the best team money can buy is an epidemic in universities across the country. Often, schools will drag their feet on policing such activities because they stand to profit so much from bringing in the best recruits to sell out their stadiums and arenas, making college athletics an underhanded and shady business of back-room deals with unsavory characters who are willing to buy access into their favorite programs. Nowhere is the epidemic worse than the big-money world of Big Sky basketball. Wait, what?
It seems that the big-time scandal of “pay-for-play” has seeped all the way down to the lower levels of smalltime Division 1 basketball, as a former coach of the Idaho State Bengals has come forward with pretty serious allegations. From the ISU Voice:
(Former interim coach Deane) Martin’s letter, dated March 6, alleges that a booster told him “in the presence of another witness, that he wanted to insure that ISU got the best recruit we could, and he offered his support. Specifically (the booster) indicated that if it took a ‘money handshake’ from him to a coach or a recruit, to seal the deal, he was happy to do that.”
Martin’s letter goes on to say that the booster “has personally involved himself with the families of potential recruits, and made similar offers to them. Healso has made those offers to junior college coaches, that it would be in their best financial interest to steer their players to Idaho State University.”
Sounds pretty big time scandally. Martin, who took over the struggling program in December and participated in the interview process to find a new, permanent coach, wrote the letter to the school’s athletic director Jeff Tingey…one day after finding out he had not gotten the job. Do you think the timing got noticed?
The athletic director told the former interim coach that, “As these are very strong and potentially slanderous statements, I am going to forward them to our university attorneys for their involvement.”
Tingey also told Martin“so that the NCAA does not think we will ‘sweep this under the rug’ I will have our compliance office contact them.”
“I think you’re a liar who’s mad about not getting the job…but I guess we’ll have to tell on ourselves now,” is a nice way to summarize the AD’s response.
On the one hand, the biggest question you have to ask is: “WHY??” Why would you stoop to paying recruits to come to Pocatello? Best case scenario: you pay some stud to come to Idaho State to wear the Bengal black, and he raises you out of the dregs of the Big Sky conference, maybe winning the Big Sky tournament and securing the automatic bid to the big dance….where you get a 15-seed and get bounced on day one. Is the finincial benefit really worth all the trouble if you get caught? I understand having pride in your school, but can’t this booster just root for a bigger school that matters without bringing the NCAA down on their alma-mater?
On the other hand…it makes sense. A small town with a small school in a small conference with a track record of being terrible probably isn’t a great draw for even average talent, so sweetening the pot becomes necessary just to get some average players. So while the inconsequeniality of the Idaho State basketball program makes it odd that someone would start paying players to improve the team, the truth is they probably need to just to field a team. As someone who has visited Pocatello on numerous occasions, I can assure you…it would take a substantial cash payment to get me to live there.