You don't have to care about players getting paid anymore
Congratulations: You never have to worry about this stuff again
On Wednesday, the NCAA’s Independent Accountability Review Process did its last thing ever.
The IARP finally resolved Kansas’s longstanding infractions case, ruling that KU’s five Level I violations should be downgraded to a Level II case. The program received three years of probation and no postseason ban. It was vacated a Final Four appearance and wins from the 2018 season, when Silvio De Sousa was deemed to have been ineligible. Coach Bill Self, who was charged with a Level I violation of his own, was downgraded to a Level III offender and given no further punishment. Ditto Kansas assistant Kurtis Townsend. The panel wrote that Kansas’s previous self-imposed penalties — and the panel’s own desire not to penalize current student athletes for crimes of the past — were among the reasons for its mercy.
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But we have to discuss it, because it was a very big deal, or anyway it was supposed to be. It was the formal resolution of a years-long scandal that once promised to shake a blueblood program to its core. The Kansas case was the most high-profile piece of a long-running saga that began with an FBI informant, that included major investigations into eight different programs and coaches, that was supposed to fundamentally change college basketball.
Instead, it fizzled out spectacularly, the Independent Resolution Panel — Condoleezza Rice’s brainchild, full of lawyers moving glacially and crushing the NCAA on billables — closing its doors with a lenient whimper.
On Wednesday, the IARP told Kansas to be on its way, then sighed its final breath and perished from this Earth. No one will mourn it.
The meaning here is deeper, though, downright epochal: Wednesday’s decision was the last time you ever have to pretend to care about college athletes being paid. It was the final vestige of a bygone time. All of the things once considered the most scurrilous underhanded cheating are now merely an athlete’s ability to maximize their own value. Words like infractions, sanctions, benefits, bagels with too much cream cheese, boosters, third parties, bag men, “funneled”: all have come into the light. Like a gambler who loses time in a Vegas casino, the IARP took so long to end proceedings that by the time it walked outside it found itself in a brand new day.
All that was impermissible is now allowed. The old era is gone. Congratulations, everyone: You never have to care again.
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