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Jim Boeheim’s not surprised by the FBI’s probe into college basketball

And that’s not surprising either.

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Friday was a huge day for college basketball, as stories came out from both Yahoo and ESPN around scandal in the sport.

Early in the morning, Yahoo’s story named numerous major programs, along with current and past players, involved in alleged agent payments of varying degrees. Some of the dollar amounts were quite large. Most of them weren’t at all, and aren’t even enough money to create a real NCAA violation ($200 minimum there). Also, most of the situations in the Yahoo report described money exchanging hands away from schools — all on the agent side.

Not so in the ESPN story, however. That one describes the FBI catching Arizona coach Sean Miller via wire tap while procuring funds to get DeAndre Ayton signed with the Wildcats. That’s far more damning than anything in the Yahoo report... if it’s true, of course. (see this note from Ben Swain about why there are some potential questions out there... also Miller still has a job for now)

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Duke Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

But getting to the point, Syracuse Orange coach Jim Boeheim isn’t surprised by any of this, and in fact, he says agents have been involved in the game for three decades now. As he noted after the Duke loss:

“This should not surprise anybody that agents are trying to get clients. You have the one-and-done factor, you need to get them early. You need to get them. You can’t wait. That’s not surprising. The thing that’s been surprising this year is obviously that 60 coaches (are) involved.”

“This is one agent. You think the other agents aren’t doing anything? You think they’re not going after parents, not talking to parents? We have blinders on. Agents are going to do that. We talk to our players. We talk to the parents. We pray that doesn’t happen, that they’ll wait, but obviously, as you see with this thing, that things happen.’’

So what you’re saying is that “things” are happening?

Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski both discussed a range of issues around the sport following Saturday’s game, but it was Boeheim that largely met it with a shrug (K, meanwhile, was animated in discussing how these interactions happen in the first place).

The Syracuse coach went on to say that the “line” for him is the coaches getting involved. He didn’t address the Miller/Arizona situation directly, but rather, broadly addressed the larger issue facing the entire sport.

NCAA Basketball: Arizona at Oregon State Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Where things get tough for Boeheim -- and any coach that’s been around a long time — is how do you change things? Jim’s not looking to pay players (he said as much on Saturday). And he’s not proposing how to remove the agents from the game necessarily. He does want to get rid of the one-and-done rule. There’s just a lot more to fixing the game than that. If you get rid of one-and-dones, you still probably have to pay the players anyway...

Boeheim and Coach K may have approached things a little differently on Saturday, but Jim’s perspective — “it’s been happening for 30 years” — is probably the more genuine response. K might look better after the fact, expressing less shrugging and more disturbance by the involvement of agents with recruits. But if Jim says it’s been going on for this long, chances are it has. And anyone that’s claiming otherwise or ignoring that fact is trying to distance themselves from the messy conversation.

In some ways, it’s very on-#BRAND for Boeheim to just accept that involvement, dislike it and then just move on with his job. As long as it doesn’t affect him or enhance his competition, he seems okay with it. The line for him, as mentioned, is coaches and agents working together. That’s probably the case for every other head man in the game. He’s just the only one saying it.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Duke Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Does that make them all complicit in this corruption? In a way, yeah. Does this corruption really matter? No. probably not. And should it just result in some sort of additional compensation for college athletes? Yes. One-and-done rule? Yeah, get that out of here too.

What’s problematic is that every coach can’t get on the same page about how to move forward. If you were fine to be silent about agents, then you’re fine with players receiving additional compensation -- even if not your own players, directly. By that logic, you should be fine with paying players above board, but it seems that’s not the case for Jim (and others). Getting rid of the one-and-done rule solves some of these issues, but not all of them. We probably still have a long way to go before this sport’s truly “fixed.”

It’s unlikely that we’re done with the information coming out of the FBI around impermissible compensation for players. And that means the conversation is going to rage on straight through the NCAA Tournament. Boeheim’s not a lone actor in knowing what was going on with agents. And with SU’s tournament chances on thin ice, others might have to take up this baton, admit what they knew already and talk solutions. Is anyone willing to go there during such a critical postseason stretch? We’ll find out soon enough.