Scott Sobel, M.A. Media Psychology, Senior Strategy and Communications Executive, Kglobal
This is a huge story with significant and long-term implications that certainly will trigger in-house audits of behavior by athletic departments across America. In-house and outside PR and legal counsel are strapping-in for a long ride.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York levied fraud and corruption charges against four college basketball assistant coaches at the University of Arizona, Auburn University, Oklahoma State University and the University of Southern California. Managers, financial advisers and representatives of Adidas have also been charged with federal crimes. This story and case will have legs for a long time to come. There is just too much money at stake and too much money swirling around high-profile college sports for this issue to disappear quickly.
The proliferation of youth league and high school year-round programs in all sports, and especially basketball and now football, have laid the foundation for this kind of probe. Kglobal’s experience handling high profile college level sports scandals and corresponding crisis communications support for legal case management leads us to believe what you are seeing in the release of this basketball bribery and ethics case will be just the tip of the iceberg.
Sporting goods manufacturers will also be doing their own legal and ethics audits. Coaches at the schools under investigation and those afraid of investigations will start talking to lawyers and prosecutors. Whistleblowers will come forward along with parents and students involved in this case and they will start revealing secrets and cutting deals. Others not charged in this probe will be frightened into telling stories to prosecutors before those individuals are charged themselves.
This FBI’s case could indeed be a turning point for college basketball and indeed all college athletics. Now is the time for colleges involved in the probe or not involved at all to send public messages to all stakeholders that their institutions have the highest ethical standards, their priority concerns are for their student athletes, the reputation of their schools and the law.
There is much more involved in a crisis prevention and mitigation program of this sort but unfortunately there will be plenty of time in the future to watch various scenarios play out. This scandal will no doubt rock the foundation of youth sport, college sport, college athletic programs, school fundraising and will certainly leach more into sports businesses and the relationship between schools and professional sports. Stay tuned.