Yahoo! Sports podcast gives good look at what's going on in New York City
With the start of another Kansas basketball season now just three weeks away — KU opens exhibition play Oct. 25 against Emporia State at Allen Fieldhouse — it makes perfect sense for KU fans to be dreaming up starting lineups, marveling at KU’s massive frontline or even fine-tuning a few of those trash talk lines so they’re ready when — if? — Kansas makes it 15 consecutive Big 12 titles sometime this winter.
But there no doubt are a bunch of Kansas fans keeping at least one eye on the happenings in New York City, where the first of three scheduled trials as a result of the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball is under way.
The trial, which is expected to last a month or so, is receiving all kinds of national media coverage.
To that end, I checked out Yahoo! Sports’ College Podcast with Dan Wetzel, Pete Thamel and Pat Forde earlier today and I’d highly recommend it for any of you who are interested in following this thing from the beginning.
Wetzel, who has written plenty and is in New York, sets the scene for the trial in every way imaginable, from what it looks like when he walked in to the federal courthouse to what’s at stake, who’s involved, what’s been said so far and what’s still to come.
The trio talks plenty about KU, Kansas coach Bill Self and current or former Jayhawks Silvio De Sousa and Billy Preston, on and off throughout the podcast and, as veterans of covering college athletics, offers a very raw look at what exactly is happening and whether they believe this trial or any of the others that follow will actually even matter in the grand scheme of things.
Obviously, for co-defendants Jim Gatto, Merl Code and Christian Dawkins, what happens in the next few weeks matters a great deal. But in terms of what it means for the schools mixed up in it and the NCAA and college basketball as a whole, their candid thoughts are pretty interesting.
It’s about 45 minutes long and definitely worth the listen.
For those that might not have time or might not be into podcasts, here are a few thoughts and soundbites that jumped out at me while listening to the podcast.
• Wetzel has doubts about the impact the case will have in the college basketball world.
“I don't know how big this case is going to be. We need a lot of dirt to come out or else no one cares. Fans don't care.”
To which Forde quickly added: "But they do care if their school is getting rapped."
• Wetzel said there were no athletic directors in attendance at the trial on Tuesday, but conceded that it was difficult to know who some of the spectators were and if any of them were representing any of the schools being mentioned in the case.
"The University of Arizona, Kansas, NC State, Maryland, the ones we knew were coming (up), should've had somebody in the courtroom. Now maybe that's a law firm, and they might've. There were no ADs there. But maybe they hired a law firm as general counsel to be there."
• A big theme of this podcast, from all three perspectives, was that what's being discussed here has been common knowledge for years and has impacted what schools view as most important when it comes to NCAA rules.
"Nobody ever cares. They only care about not getting caught or, if they do, putting up the impression that they tried to stop it. … They now have 30-member compliance departments."
• Around the 28-minute mark, the group gets into a sort of meat-and-potatoes debate about what would happen on the campus of “School X” if its involvement becomes public in federal court, be it through witness testimony, wire taps, documents or any other manner:
Wetzel: "What happens? I mean, I think if there's a wire tap of a coach involved in that, yeah, the coach will get fired."
Forde: "If these schools want to walk the talk that they constantly put out there about, first of all, ‘No, we don't know anything about it,’ but then secondly, 'Oh my God, we're so concerned with integrity,' then, yeah, they suspend the coach within 5 minutes and then you get around to firing him very shortly thereafter."
For what it’s worth, none of the three seemed to think it would reach that level for Kansas — or maybe not even for any of the schools involved — and Wetzel even pointed out how many second and third chances former Louisville coach Rick Pitino got before his role in previous scandals at Louisville cost him his job. “If you win in college basketball, it doesn't matter," Wetzel said. "Rick Pitino won. So I don't think anything gets Bill Self.”
• Thamel, talking specifically about the De Sousa and Preston aspect, offered an interesting perspective on how the general public and college basketball fans may have become desensitized to scandal because of the wide-reaching and highly public nature of this case during the past year.
“If that was a scandal in a bubble, I would think the coach would get fired, if it was Kansas, Georgetown, Washington, whatever.”
• A couple of other quick notes from Wetzel:
He said the jury is made up of eight women and four men and is “super diverse.” “It’s New York,” he added. Along those same lines, Wetzel said a few potential jurors were dismissed in the very beginning stages because they admitted to being college basketball fans. Only a small handful of the 60 or so in the initial jury pool were sent home for that reason.
Although he remains somewhat skeptical that major change will come as a result of this trial, Wetzel seems to think that the only way there will be true fireworks is if the defendants are loaded with information and not afraid to share it. “There's no holding back now. If you're facing prison, hey, rat them all out. Screw it.”
The final seven or eight minutes of the podcast is about college football — their regular weekly topic this time of year — so no need to listen to the end if you don’t have the time and/or aren’t interested in the football aspect.