Bribery is unacceptable in college sports. However, boosters and coaches try to find ways around this. The NCAA has heard infinite excuses but it doesn’t condone any of them. It doesn’t matter how they frame it because it never works out well.
Bozeman was one of the hottest young coaches in college basketball. He led the California Golden Bears to the Sweet 16 and won a lot of praise. That was before his career went off the rails. Bozeman paid $30,000 to Jelani Gardner’s parents. In the end, this cost him his job (via SFGate).
Sampson’s reign in charge of Indiana came to an inglorious end. The former Hoosiers coach broke NCAA coaching etiquette on a serial scale. Coaches couldn’t privately communicate with potential recruits. However, Sampson made hundreds of phone calls. He threw regulations out the window.
In the end, the NCAA caught wind of this. Unsurprisingly they punished him severely. They gave him a five-year show clause penalty. After he left Indiana he became an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks. Finally, he returned to college basketball with Houston in 2014 (via Chicago Tribune).
Pitino was involved in some of the biggest scandals in college basketball history. The Louisville coach was a reportedly clean-cut Christian and a father of five. Then he became embroiled in an affair with Karen Sypher (via Sporting News). This was a terrible decision.
Sypher tried to extort the hapless Cardinals’ coach. First, Pitino paid $3000 for an abortion. She also demanded cars from him. Next, her husband got involved. Tim Sypher was the Louisville equipment manager so there was no escape. He attempted to extort $10 million from Pitino.
Next, let’s talk about the incident that cost Pitino his job. The NCAA has strict policies when it comes to enticing recruits. Corporate partners must follow a strict code of conduct. However, an Adidas representative tried to bribe Bowen into signing for Louisville.
This was one of the biggest scandals in college basketball history. In 2017, an FBI investigation implicated six schools. Several individuals lost their jobs including Pitino. He claimed that the events completely took him by surprise. But Louisville still cut ties with the controversial coach (via New York Times).
In 2015, another ludicrous Louisville story emerged. Former escort Katrina Powell released a book in which she disclosed illicit relations with Cardinals players. She alleged that a graduate assistant booked prostitutes for players at parties. That’s a unique type of scholarship.
Then, Louisville withdrew from the 2016 March Madness tournament. They also punished Rick Pitino because they believed he should have kept control over the program. He received a five-game suspension from the school as they lost more and more credibility (via USA Today).
The Harricks were a father and son coaching duo. But they’re famous because they brought the Georgia Bulldogs into disrepute. It doesn’t matter how good a school’s program is because somebody will always go too far. That’s exactly what happened with this in one of the biggest scandals ever (via Fanbuzz).
Head coach Jim and his son and assistant Jim Jr. committed academic fraud on a wild scale. They helped their players achieve top grades in classes that they never attended. Meanwhile, they also paid for massive expenses such as long-distance phone calls. Finally, the school showed both men the door.
Every school is desperate to secure the best prospects. Unfortunately, many of them don’t ethically do this. Bruce Pearl was Iowa’s head coach and he was desperate to secure Deon Thomas. It came down to a straight choice between the Hawkeyes and Illinois for the five-star recruit (via SBNation).
But Thomas chose the latter to Pearl’s disdain. Pearl wanted revenge and secretly recorded a phone conversation. During the call, Thomas admitted that Illini offered him a car and cash. Needless to say, it became dirty when Pearl released this. The NCAA hit Illinois with a ban from March Madness.
Knight is a Hoosiers icon but it’s safe to describe his coaching style as ‘old school.’ It’s unlikely that he’d earn a coaching job in the modern sport because of his toughness. Knight had an unforgiving personality and was ruthless toward his young charges (via Yahoo). Famously, he threw a chair in one game.
In 1997, he became embroiled in one of his biggest scandals. One of his players accused Knight of choking him. Later, a video emerged that supported this claim. This left Knight on thin ice. Finally, he lost his job after he grabbed another student and verbally abused him.
O’Brien was another head coach who tried to game the system. However, he wasn’t even subtle when it came to his attempt to lure a potential Serbian recruit to Ohio. The Buckeyes coach offered the youngster cash to join his program. Then the NCAA caught wind of his naughty antics.
Many of the biggest scandals in basketball relate to bribery. This was a shining example of what happens when it all goes wrong. The NCAA hit him with a five-year suspension. Meanwhile, Ohio State received a one-year postseason ban as well as three-year probation (via L.A. Times).
Technically, Larry Nassar didn’t have anything to do with Michigan’s basketball program. However, the Spartans came into focus after the evil doctor’s arrest. An ESPN report revealed that the program had several sexual abuse incidents. One former player assaulted a woman in a bar.
Nassar’s case was one of the biggest scandals in U.S. sports history. It also tarnished Michigan’s reputation as an institution. Meanwhile, police investigated another pair of former recruits after sexual assault accusations. In the end, they weren’t hit with charges but it wasn’t a good look.
Most of USC’s biggest scandals relate to their football team. However, Mayo became the center of attention after receiving money from boosters. The guard only spent a single season with the Trojans but had a positive impact on the team (via Seattle Times). However, his time with USC had a sorry ending.
A booster illicitly provided Mayo with cash, clothing, and a flatscreen TV. Unsurprisingly, the NCAA didn’t appreciate this. USC moved quickly and sanctioned themselves by vacating the 21 wins with Mayo. Meanwhile, they also had a postseason ban in 2010.
John Calipari had his hand in some of the biggest scandals in NCAA history. One of these involved Camby who cost UMass a place in the history books. We mean this in the most literal sense. In 1996, the school made the Final Four. However, the NCAA scrubbed this from history (via MassLive).
Agents paid Camby cash and hired prostitutes to calm his nerves. UMass didn’t receive any other major sanctions at the time. But this was a very embarrassing incident for the program. The young man was a victim too. That’s because these money-hungry businessmen took advantage of him.
The Sun Devils have experienced some of the biggest scandals in college basketball history. In 2018, an FBI wiretap uncovered a devious scheme. Sports agent Christian Dawkins bribed multiple individuals. These included Arizona assistant Book Richardson (via N.Y Daily News).
Richardson demanded $100,000 to convince DeAndre Ayton to commit to Arizona. He received a short suspension and the FBI arrested him. However, they released him as the investigation continued. It was a rough period for the school as they struggled to attract recruits.
There have been many points-shaving incidents throughout the decades. But this was the most notorious. It also saw the first death penalty in NCAA basketball history. Several Kentucky players became professional basketball players in the 1950s. Some also won Olympic gold medals.
But they also accepted money to affect game results. Eventually, it all poured out like dirty water from a faucet. The NBA banned the players for life in a shocking move. Meanwhile, the Wildcats received a one-year suspension from the competition (via Business Insider).
UNC is another school that tried to game the system. The university’s African and Afro-American Studies program came into focus. That’s because the department hosted over 200 classes that never existed. Of course, their basketball players still earned top grades.
The NCAA caught wind of this and opened an investigation. In the end, it came to nothing because they couldn’t prove any wrongdoing. However, this was a situation where everybody knew what had happened. UNC even reformed its academic system (via CNN).
Memphis almost put the NCAA in a very uncomfortable situation in 2008. They made the National Championship final and came within touching distance of a win. Some missed free throws cost them dearly. But the administrators breathed a sigh of relief.
Famous head coach John Calipari became the center of attention again after another major scandal. News broke that one of his players paid somebody else to sit his SATs. Allegedly, Derrick Rose was the guilty party. Finally, they both left the team the following season (via Bleacher Report).
Tulane went without a basketball program for four seasons. That’s because they were involved in one of the biggest scandals ever. University President Eamon Kelly tried to ban the sport for good but students protested and forced him to bring it back.
This all came after a major point-shaving incident. Tulane players shared $18,000 to fix a couple of games. Meanwhile, Green Wave head coach Ned Fowler paid his athletes through the season. It was a crazy situation with a lot of blowbacks (via AP News).
Northwestern has some of the best academics in the world. However, the illustrious school saw limited athletic success. They tried to change this in the nineties by nefarious means. Unfortunately, they tried to fix games by paying their football and basketball players.
This had serious consequences because it’s illegal. It seems like the easiest way to end point-shaving is to give athletes a share of the pot. Firstly, it seemed like a brilliant season for the school’s teams. But it came to an embarrassing and shameful end (via Chicago Tribune).
The same investigation that stung Brian Bowen also hit Tony Bland. However, the USC Trojans coach faced worse consequences. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery. In short, he accepted $4,100 from an agent to send players his way (via Sports Illustrated).
In the end, he didn’t set foot in jail. But the judge hit him with two years probation. The Trojans’ reputation also took a major hit. Needless to say, the school didn’t appreciate this. One of the biggest scandals in recent years tarnished the team. Bland was a scapegoat but he wasn’t innocent.
Everybody knows that elite athletes receive special treatment. But Minnesota took this too far in the ’90s. The team blossomed in this decade. One year, they even made the Final Four. Perhaps that’s because they didn’t have school work to worry about (via Washington Post).
A school office manager claimed that she did coursework for 20 players. Jan Gangelhoff made the news public in 1999. This opened a major Pandora’s box. Then it emerged that the school forced teachers into faking grades. Several key figures including the school VP lost their jobs.
This era was an electrifying period for Michigan. They made it to back-to-back title games in 1992 and 1993. It all started after they brought exciting rookies into the team. The team was a breath of fresh air but ultimately fell short of glory. Then, they became the source of scandal (via The Spun).
One player was in a car crash that prompted a police investigation. Suddenly, links emerged between players and booster Ed Martin. He regularly hosted the players at parties with strippers and drugs. Also, he paid the Fab Five hundreds of thousands of dollars. Michigan had a self-imposed death penalty for a season.
Howard Porter was one of the Wildcats’ best players in the 1970s. However, Villanova wished that they never saw him. That’s because of his role in a major scandal. He signed a deal with an agent in the middle of the 1971 season. That’s also the same year that they made the Final Four.
However, this was against the rules. Villanova received a harsh punishment too. The NCAA wiped their record from the history books. This also meant that Penn finished the year undefeated without winning the tournament. It’s a unique accolade that nobody will emulate (via Sports Illustrated).
Nobody outside of New York had heard of this school before 2003. Then the Bonnies made headlines for all of the wrong reasons. That’s because of their dubious recruitment policies. They didn’t worry about little things like GPAs. No, they enrolled anybody who could shoot the basketball (via Washington Post).
This included Jamill Terrell. The young man had a lot of talent on the court. But he didn’t have the same skills in academics. His main qualification was a welding certificate. However, the Bonnies overlooked this and enrolled him anyway. In the end, the NCAA banned them from the postseason.
These days nobody thinks about the City College of New York. However, they were once a powerhouse. The Beavers won the NIT and NCAA tournaments in 1950. This was an unprecedented achievement. But this story doesn’t have a happy ending.
CCNY was part of the same point-shaving scandal as Kentucky. They had literally hundreds of corruption cases. Furthermore, Madison Square Garden banned the school from hosting games in the venue. Soon they fell from grace into Division III (via WBUR).
This scandal is one of the most toxic on this list. Fine was an assistant at Syracuse when he received accusations of sexual abuse. Things became worse for him when his wife spoke to a former ball boy. She claimed that she knew about his behavior. But she didn’t think that there was anything she could do.
In the end, Fine didn’t receive any criminal charges. The FBI investigated him but came up with nothing. Meanwhile, the statute of limitations was up. There was no chance of any school hiring Fine after this though. Things became muddy because some people admitted that they lied (via Bleacher Report).
Boston College had a crazy match-fixing scandal in the seventies. Rich Kuhn was friends with a pair of local gamblers. These men cooked up a devious scheme together. They persuaded Kuhn to influence his teammates to throw games. Then the Boston mob became involved (via Boston Globe).
They were funding the whole exercise. Finally, the FBI arrested crime boss Henry Hill. He admitted that he paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Boston players. In the end, multiple people received jail time for their roles. These included the original gamblers and Kuhn.
SLU brought recruiting violations to the next level. An NCAA investigation uncovered over 100 over a couple of seasons. This coincided with a period of success for the school. They had outstanding talents like Bo Lamar in their team. It all seemed too good to be true.
However, that’s because they paid the athletes to play for the team. They even gave them school credit cards to buy gas and clothing. Meanwhile, they faked the GPAs of several recruits because they were below the minimum of 1.6. In the end, they received the death penalty.
It’s unlikely that anything will ever overtake this. In 2003, Carlton Dotson murdered his Baylor teammate Patrick Dennehy. This was a tragedy but this story has a dark twist. Head coach Dave Bliss tried to cover up the killing. He also told investigators that Dennehy was a drug dealer.
In reality, Bliss paid for Dennehy’s tuition. Meanwhile, he influenced his assistants to back up his story. But the truth emerged when one of his staff recorded a conversation. This was one of the biggest scandals in sports history, never mind basketball (via USA Today).