SALT LAKE CITY — Is anyone surprised University of Utah officials spent Friday morning addressing allegations of a former player violating NCAA rules? Anyone?
That’s not an indictment on the Utes’ basketball program as much as an inclusion. These days, everybody’s involved. That’s because questionable agents and such are lurking, and athletes are making wrong choices. Meanwhile, universities — some innocent, others not — are taking on water.
Early Friday, news broke that the FBI’s ongoing investigation into corruption in college hoops includes numerous former college basketball players, including ex-Ute Kyle Kuzma. Documents published by Yahoo Sports show his name on a list of former college players who may have illegally received loans from a sports agency.
A balance sheet the report said was from ASM Sports showed Kuzma’s name under the heading “Other Current Assets” and the amount of $3,000 beside it. It also listed his name under the headings “Loan to Players” in the amounts $6,500 and $9,500.
The document was dated Dec. 31, 2015, when Kuzma was in his sophomore season at Utah.
The document doesn’t specify involvement on the part of the Utah program, only that the agency apparently paid Kuzma and other athletes in hopes of acquiring them as clients once they went professional. Meanwhile, the relatively small amounts, in some cases, imply players often need more than scholarship and “cost of attendance” funds to survive their college careers. Former college players tell of not having enough money for gas, dating, movies or even small incidentals, while they are generating millions for their universities.
None of this is excusable. College players know beforehand that dealing with agents — much less accepting money — is taboo. Yet these things keep happening. Last year, BYU guard Nick Emery withdrew from school, in part due to an NCAA investigation to determine whether he was furnished with use of a car and received travel and entertainment benefits via a booster.
If it seems Utah schools are being singled out, think again. Dozens of schools have been implicated in one probe or another. This week the University of Louisville was ordered to vacate its 2013 national championship and its 2012 Final Four appearance following a sex scandal that shook the program.
Utah athletic director Chris Hill issued a statement Friday, distancing the basketball program and coach Larry Krystkowiak from the Kuzma situation.
“Unethical agents have been an issue in college athletics — particularly men’s basketball and football — for many years despite repeated educational efforts by the schools,” Hill said.
He continued, “Personally, I welcome the scrutiny on the sport of men’s basketball because the behavior of some agents, along with reports of other illegal recruiting activities, is hurting the sport. Coach Krystkowiak has a great deal of integrity and runs a clean program, but this situation shows there are areas outside a coach’s control that need to be fixed.”
Krystkowiak said in a statement he had “absolutely no knowledge about it.
“At this point, these are allegations. I know we run a clean program and my complete focus will be getting our squad ready for our game against USC.”
While financial need is a contributing factor in accepting loans and/or payments from agents or boosters, college athletes know what’s permissible, Kuzma and Emery included. They are basically told when they enter a program not to accept anything. I once tried to pick up the tab for breakfast with a college athlete I had interviewed. He stopped me saying it was illegal. I had no idea.
That was 30 years ago.
If they knew these things were wrong then, they surely know now.
Young men and women don’t always have the judgment to resist temptation. They should make sure they listen only to those who advise them to live by the rules, regardless. Most coaches will tell them that. If not, transfer immediately. As for unethical agents and such? They’re all grown up. The FBI should throw the book at them.