Wetzel: College Coaches Are Playing Pretend

Don't believe Mike Krzyzewski and other coaches who claim Brian Bowen was the exception; Bowen was very much the rule, Dan Wetzel says

The DA Show
November 05, 2018 - 12:46 pm

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As the $100,000 Brian Bowen recruiting controversy showed, the words college basketball and amateurism don’t belong in the same sentence.

Take it from Dan Wetzel, who was at the trial and has been arguing against the NCAA’s outdated model for years.

“Anybody who paid attention to the trial, these kids are not amateur athletes when they arrive at college,” the Yahoo Sports columnist and best-selling author Dan Wetzel said on The DA Show. “There was testimony that this kid, who was the No. 30 recruit in the country after his sophomore year of high school – Adidas paid him $25,000 to play for an AAU team of theirs one summer. That was his summer job between his sophomore and junior year. His dad got $25,000 for his son to play for an AAU team.”

Why would anyone pay $25,000 for the No. 30 player in the country to play for an AAU team in high school? Because they see an investment opportunity. They see value.

“When you’re paid and someone sees value in you, you’re a professional,” Wetzel said. “They’re pros at 16, 15. Zion Williamson already has 1.7 million Instagram followers. He is a huge presence in teenage culture and could sell tons of things. He is a professional athlete. It’s the college rules that are still based on this idea of nobody ever heard of you, you come to our college, we teach people who you are, and now you have value when you turn pro. So the concept of amateurism, which was always bankrupt to begin with, just isn’t relevant these days with these kids. Tugs Bowen isn’t even a big deal. If they’re paying 25 for No. 30, what are they paying for No. 3?”

Why doesn’t the NCAA – or coaches or athletic directors – do anything about this?

Simple: money.

“All the people in charge want to ignore this because they’re getting paid,” Wetzel said. “They want the status quo. This system is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of in my life. It’s like saying, ‘Hey, I know Taylor Swift could sing songs in high school, but she’s not allowed to. She has to sing in a choir at the University of Tennessee for a year. Then she can make an album – but not when she’s 15 years old.’ You go, ‘That’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of.’ Well, here you go.

“Nobody with the power wants to do anything because they’re making cash,” Wetzel continued. “The only thing that changes things in this country is money – and they got the money. So it should have, but it won’t. They’re just going to double down and go, ‘Hey, man, if this system can go 15 more years, I’m making millions more dollars and I’ll retire. Who cares what goes on in the future?’”

Coaches like Mike Krzyzewski can say that Bowen was the exception, but Wetzel believes that’s disingenuous.

“They know what’s going on,” he said. “Almost every top-30 recruit over the last five, 10 years – really about 40 years – has been paid not by the school with a bag man, but Nike is paying them, Adidas is paying them, Under Armour is paying them, agents are paying them, financial planners are paying them. Everyone is paying the kids and their families because they’re professionals. They’re worth something. If you have 1.7 million Instagram followers like Zion Williamson, and those 1.7 are almost all going to be teenagers, what’s the easiest way to sell to teenagers? Have them wear your brand. Have them promote your brand. Putting him in a Nike jersey in high school has enormous value. You may not think it, but he does. 

“So assume that all of these top players at all these top schools, they’re all ineligible,” Wetzel said. “They all did the same thing as the Bowens. Let’s say most of them, not all. But just common sense and basic knowledge says, ‘If this kid is worth this much, how much is this guy worth?’ All of these guys have taken something. Almost all of them. Some of them went to Duke. Some of them went to (North) Carolina. Some of them went to Kentucky. Some of them went to Kansas. It’s all the same. Because that’s how you get the best teams.”

Which is why the same programs send (multiple) players to the NBA just about every year.

“Is this amateur basketball?” Wetzel asked. “Come on. So for coaches to sit there and go, ‘That’s not happening on my campus’ – it just defies logic. I like Mike Krzyzewski, but come on. He’s too smart to sit there and not see how obvious this is. It doesn’t behoove anybody who writes the rules to change the rules. They’re going to play pretend. ‘Nope, it’s not happening here.’ Okay, sure.”