Although cheating in college basketball was exposed this week by federal investigators in a way it never has before, coaches funneling money to players and agents finagling for positioning to land top recruits are nothing new to the sport.
The idea that agencies have been meddling with college basketball recruiting was backed up with an interesting anecdote by ESPN analyst Jay Williams, a former Duke player who had a hand in funneling money to Kevin Love’s AAU coach when Love was in high school and during a stint in which Williams worked for a sports agency. He told the story unfiltered on live television this week.
“There were a lot of dealings that were being made that people didn’t know about. There was a lot of money being exchanged. I know for a fact — there was a reported story from Yahoo! Sports back in 2009 — I know that we gave an AAU coach for a guy named Kevin Love who plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers. We gave him over $250,000. Now, at the time, we were also giving other players money because you were allowed to give players money through their AAU programs.”
Williams’ anecdote would seem to confirm a 2009 Yahoo! Sports report regarding Love’s AAU team and a $250,00 payment made to Love’s coach, Pat Barrett, in which the agency made the massive donation with hopes that Barrett could deliver Love — first to a dinner, then later as a client.
Despite attending a dinner with Barrett and the agency, Love signed with a different agency down the road in part because of distrust in Williams. Williams later left the industry to become a central figure in ESPN’s basketball coverage, and Love has gone on to make four NBA All-Star teams since entering the league in 2008. It seems both parties came out rosy in the end, but there was no lack of controversy along the way — further proof that college basketball has operated in gray areas for many years without consequence.