SCREAMIN’ FROM THE CHEAP SEATS – MARCH 31
By Leo Haggerty
When the NCAA chose to place all 64 Men’s Basketball Tournament teams at one specific central location, and that being Indianapolis, it seemed like a logical and sensible decision. By keeping all players and coaches along with team personnel plus administrations in one place, the NCAA believed that they could basically quarantine all participants in a secure environment except while they were practicing or playing.
I agree that this was a good decision by the tournament powers that be. The NCAA could control the movements of teams and limit their outside contacts as well as scheduling Covid testing on a daily basis from one hotel. Good call but here’s an unintended consequence of that sequestering.
Now, before I go on, I want to make it perfectly clear that I have no source for the following information. It is strictly hypothetical but, with everything that has transpired since the pandemic began almost 13 months ago, I put nothing out of the realm of possibility and it would behoove the NCAA to take the same approach especially with the following scenario.
Imagine, if you will, a group of two to four young and ambitious lawyers who are out to make a name for themselves. Also, to make a tremendous amount of money and they have devised a scheme to bring that to fruition.
So, here’s their plan and let’s say this group is a quartet that I will refer to as “The Cuatro” for ease of identification. Phase 1 is for one of the “legal eagles” to make contact with two or three players targeting the Final Four participants.
Normally, that is extremely hard to do because teams are scattered throughout the country until the last four schools standing come to the site of the Final Four. This year, due to the pandemic, all school were sheltered in Indianapolis and that makes it easier for “The Cuatro” to initiate a conversation.
Phase 2 is to “plant the seed” with these specific players. They are told that they have just saved the NCAA from going bankrupt by putting their lives on the line. Just remind them of how Virginia Commonwealth was summarily dropped from the first round because of a positive test for the “deadly” coronavirus. Inform them, that if it wasn’t deadly in the eyes of the NCAA, why would VCU be sent home due to the flu.
Now, if there are some listeners, Phase 3 is to “plant the hook” by paining this picture. The NCAA makes billions on this tournament. Coaches have tournament bonus clauses that pay them hundreds of thousands of dollars and, in some case more. Players don’t even make a dime and that needs to, and can, change immediately.
Now, if you get one or two players that are in agreement with what “The Cuatro” has been preaching, Phase 5 is to “drop the hammer” and here’s how that happens. You convince players from the two teams playing in the championship game on Monday night to convince their teammates to stay in the locker room. The only way both teams will compete is if $50 million is deposited with “The Cuatro” before tipoff. That money is to compensate the players from both teams who have “put themselves in harm’s way” so the NCAA could pocket an obscene amount of money.
After “The Cuarto” takes their cut for negotiating the transaction, which I would surmise to be between $10 and $15 million, the rest would be evenly divided among all the players and deposited in a Swiss bank account in their name. Then, and only then, both teams take the court and decide the championship on the hardwood.
There you have it. Is it crazy? Probably but, if I were the NCAA, I would definitely not dismiss it and here’s why.
I submit to you, what’s more preposterous. “The Cuatro” hypothesis I have presented above or a gambler, who has dropped a big number on one team, finding five people who have Covid and paying them to make contact with the opposition to force a forfeiture of the tilt due to positive test results and contact tracing so he can score a big hit in Vegas?
Either one is a huge black eye for the NCAA. It would be in their best interest to take any threat assessment, no matter how ludicrous it sounds, seriously. That’s because there’s a lot more people smarter than me thinking up ways to beat the system.