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Men’s basketball: Ohio State Athletics Director Gene Smith on NCAA’s commission to address FBI investigation

Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith stands on the field prior to the Buckeyes’ season-opening 49-21 win over Indiana on Aug. 31 in Bloomington, Indiana. Credit: Colin Hass-Hill | Sports Editor

Ohio State Athletics Director Gene Smith will be a part of the NCAA’s Commission on College Basketball, a 14-member committee tasked with “examining critical aspects of a system that clearly is not working,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement Wednesday.

The creation of the commission comes on the heels of an FBI investigation that led to federal corruption charges against four college basketball assistant coaches. Ohio State hasn’t bee implicated in any wrongdoing.

“I am privileged and honored to serve alongside such a distinguished group committed to making the great game of college basketball even better for all parties involved,” Smith said in a statement.

Smith, who also joined the College Football Playoff selection committee this fall, is one of two current athletic directors on the commission, which is chaired by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The other is Hofstra’s Jeffrey Hathaway.

“The recent news of a federal investigation into fraud in college basketball made it very clear the NCAA needs to make substantive changes to the way we operate, and do so quickly,” Emmert said in a release.

“While I believe the vast majority of coaches follow the rules, the culture of silence in college basketball enables bad actors, and we need them out of the game,” he added. “We must take decisive action. This is not a time for half-measures or incremental change.”

The commission, which will first convene in November, will focus on three main areas. The first is “the relationship of the NCAA national office, member institutions, student-athletes and coaches with outside entities,” according to the release. Those outside entities include apparel companies, agents and AAU basketball.

The FBI investigation revealed that Adidas made back-channel payments to at least three players in exchange for those players committing to Adidas-sponsored schools. James Gatto, the company’s director of global marketing, was arrested on three charges, including wire fraud.

The commission’s second area of concern is the relationship between the NCAA and the NBA, particularly on what can be done to address the proliferation of “one-and-done” players in college basketball, which is due in part to the NBA’s draft-eligibility requirements.

Thirdly, the commission will work on “creating the right relationship between the universities and colleges of the NCAA and its national office to promote transparency and accountability.”

The commission’s recommended solutions will be presented to the NCAA Board of Governors and the Division I Board of Directors at their April meetings.

“We need to do right by student-athletes,” Emmert said. “I believe we can — and we must — find a way to protect the integrity of college sports by addressing both sides of the coin: fairness and opportunity for college athletes, coupled with the enforcement capability to hold accountable those who undermine the standards of our community.”

Updated on Oct. 11, 2017, 4:51 p.m. with Smith’s statement.

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