WASHINGTON — While college basketball officials are shaking in their sneakers over the pay-for-play scandal that seems ready to sweep across the nation, taking down coaches and administrators in its wake, an Atlantic 10 Conference official and George Mason’s athletic director see the investigation differently.
To A-10 Associate Commissioner Matt Doherty, the revelation that shoe companies have been directly involved in recruiting for decades comes as no surprise. He welcomes the FBI investigation. Already, four of the biggest universities affected by the scandal have seen assistants arrested, and a fifth — Louisville — fired its athletic director and hall-of-fame coach Rick Pitino.
“I’m thrilled. Because as a former coach at high level institutions, I knew what was going on and that’s one reason I went to the pros. It’s cleaner in the NBA,” Doherty said.
Doherty played at North Carolina — one of college basketball’s most successful programs. He later coached the Tar Heels and three other schools, including Notre Dame.
Doherty was a scout with the Indiana Pacers for the past five years. In August, he returned to college ball when he was named to his current post. Now, as an administrator, he hopes the investigation leads to a change in college recruiting practices.
“I’m surprised it took this long. It was disheartening to the game and to coaches that did it the right way. But, to me, it’s a great day now. It’s really cleansing and I hope that we can capture this and do right by the game of college basketball,” Doherty said.
All indications point to the recruiting violations taking place only among the major sports powers. At least that’s what officials from mid-major colleges believe.
WTOP asked George Mason Athletic Director Brad Edwards his opinion of the scandal at Atlantic 10 Media Day.
“I think most of the athletes that have been involved in this have come out of what you would call a sneaker program, and we just don’t have many of those kids in this program. We know who we are,” Edwards said.
Still, mid majors are not blind to what’s going on and many schools are now conducting their own reviews.
The subject was addressed by A-10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade on Tuesday in Washington. She said the conference can’t be smug about the issue and must remain vigilant.
But Edwards went a little further, saying about their conference that “the incentives weren’t there to do it. You were not going to see those type of players in this league.”
“I think it’s easier to do things the right way. You spend more time trying to cover up the lies than you do by doing things the right way,” Edwards added.
Doherty believes the right way is the only way.
“I am happy that this has happened, because I think that we could take one step back to not take one step or two steps forward, but three and four steps forward.”
Editor’s note: The story’s headline has been edited to include “associate” before commissioner to clarify the position.