A federal probe into the off-the-books practices of at least 20 Division I NCAA basketball programs has exposed multiple violations of the association’s rules. Yahoo! Sports reported that financial documents reveal multiple cash advances and other perks were given to high school and college prospects, as well as their families. But Lonzo Ball said on Friday that this isn’t new information. Rather than penalize the programs and the players, the NCAA should legalize the practice.
During a press conference, Lonzo was interviewed about his return to the court after the Lakers rookie had suffered an MCL injury and missed 15 games. The eldest Ball brother said that he just wants to get back to his winning ways. But a reporter asked him to weigh in on the federal probe and whether or not college players should be paid. His response was a resounding “yes.”
“I do,” Ball said. “I mean, all the money they generate for the programs and stuff… it’s kind of an unfair system.”
Lonzo went on to say that every player who wants to take money is taking it. He says that’s just part of the college basketball culture. And since everybody is doing it, the NCAA “might as well make it legal.”
When Ball said “everybody,” he wasn’t referring to himself, though. He told the reporter that he never took money from anyone and that his father LaVar didn’t do business that way. Their goal was to get Lonzo on the team at UCLA and then fast-track him to the NBA. The Ball family plan for the Lakers standout was to get in and get out of UCLA.
The federal investigation centers on the activities of former NBA agent Andy Miller, his former associate Christian Dawkins, and Miller’s agency, ASM Sports. But the impact of the case reaches far and wide. Some 25 players and 20 schools are accused of being complicit in an underground recruiting operation, according to Yahoo! Sports. Some of the schools involved include North Carolina, USC, Duke, Kentucky, Alabama, and Michigan State, among others.
NCAA President Mark Emmert issued a statement on Friday saying that he has taken deliberate action to expose and hold everyone who is involved accountable. Emmert believes that those who exploit the system have no place in collegiate sports.
“Following the Southern District of New York’s indictments last year, the NCAA Board of Governors and I formed the Independent Commission on College Basketball, chaired by Condoleezza Rice, to provide recommendations on how to clean up the sport,” Emmert said in his statement.
“With these latest allegations, it’s clear this work is more important now than ever,” Emmert continued. “The Board and I are completely committed to making transformational changes to the game and ensuring all involved in college basketball do so with integrity. We also will continue to cooperate with the efforts of federal prosecutors to identify and punish the unscrupulous parties seeking to exploit the system through criminal acts.”