Gary Williams on Cheaters and Cheating
One of the great shames of baseball's steroids era was not only that dozens and dozens of guys were cheating, but that dozens and dozens of other guys who weren't cheating didn't say anything. Speaking out makes you look like sour grapes, like you're making excuses, but that's the only way to actually end the thing.
The same thing could be said about college recruiting; every fan assumes that nearly every big-time program cheats, and every journalist makes snide but knowing asides, and every assistant coach whispers about what every other assistant coach is doing, off the record, but most of the power-brokers don't just come out slinging the C word around. Now I don't know that Gary Williams will be the guy to break open the pinata of cheating in college basketball recruiting, but he sure seems like he's getting close. He was on ESPN 980's Sports Reporters this afternoon, and what started out as a nice retrospective on the scrappy 08-09 Terps team turned into something else when Williams was asked about recruiting one-and-done guys.
"We recruit 'em, but whenever we do we get yelled at for recruiting 'em," he said, referring to the WaPo series on the Terps. "You know, I got yelled at for not cheating this year. It's unbelievable. They were yelling at me because I wouldn't cheat."
"The second part of that Post story was phenomenal," Andy Pollin said, sarcastically.
"That's amazing, I mean, that just blew me away," Thom Loverro of the Wash Times chimed in.
Now, before we continue, I think this is a fairly narrow way of looking at what was a fairly broad piece of reporting. The second part, I always thought, had to make you like and respect Gary Williams more than you did before reading it. But regardless, the conversation continued.
"But I mean, that's where it is," Williams said. "I've been in it a while now, I guess 31 years as a head coach, and there's a lot more cheating going on right now than I've ever seen before."
Chris Knoche pointed out that the penalties for cheaters are also minimal.
"Seriously," Williams agreed. "The penalty that the Alabama football team got, for instance; they have to forfeit games, ok? And they get probation for three years or whatever it is. That has nothing to do with what you're gonna do this year. You can go to bowl games, you can play on TV. When we got our sanctions in 1990 we could not play on live television, we could not to go to the NCAA tournament for two years, we lost three scholarships and we had to give back a ton of money. And so basically they took the legs out of our program, because you can't recruit players to the ACC without television, NCAA Tournament hopes, things like that."
So how, he was asked, does this story end.
"I don't know," he said. "I'm a little concerned. I don't want to sound like the old head, like things aren't the way they used to be, but something has got to be done. Because you look at the teams this year that were very successful, a couple of them have been outed for what they did. And next year, when it comes time for college basketball to start again, they'll talk about certain coaches as being great recruiters that I know cheat, you know. And I could be a great recruiter if I was giving kids money, or if I was changing grades on a kid, I'd be a great recruiter, but that's where it is right now."
Hmmm. Who the heck could he be talking about? Anyhow, this the sort of public cynicism we expect from journalists and columnists and bloggers. It's not the sort of public cynicism we expect from national championship-winning coaches.
"You look at the Reggie Bush situation at Southern Cal, and then the Tim Floyd situation," he said later. "That thing's been three years, with Reggie Bush. They have people saying they got all this money and all these things. Well that hasn't been resolved. I mean, that is still out there. And let's face it, ABC needs Southern Cal on Saturday afternoon in the fall. I remember the Clarett situation with Ohio State a few years ago, that just kind of went away because Ohio State draws big numbers when they play. There's a lot of finances involved with the NCAA; in other words, they have a big operating budget. A school like the university of Maryland has 27 sports that someone has to pay for, so they're very reluctant to go after what generates the money."
It's all true, Gary, it's all true. But just give us the evidence. We're all dying for someone to bring down the system. We all want to know who's giving what to whom. We all want to see the paperwork. Let's get to this.
(Williams also again praised his most recent team, saying it was one of the teams he would most remember when he stops coaching, because "whatever the talent was, we knew how to play, we never quit trying to get better, all those things that you talk about as a coach....These guys hung together and they had my back, that's the big thing. We talked about it when the articles appeared in The Post, and we just said we were gonna just focus on what we could do, and what we could do was get ready for the next game. We were tough through that whole stretch and it made us a better team. The people that did that really helped us because it really unified us as a team and made us tough."
So, at least give The Post credit for that. We helped make the Terps a better team.)
(One amusing side note in the interview, concerning Tiger Woods. "He really follows the game," Williams said. "I mean, you see him at the Lakers games, he's a big Stanford fan obviously, and he was at our game in 2001 when we beat Stanford, the No. 1 seed, to go to the Final Four for the first time. And he still remembers that game, let's put it that way. And Tiger's not afraid, off camera or off radio or whatever, he's not afraid to throw a few shots in there.")
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