When adults betray young athletes

But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. — Matthew 18:6.

When the villainy of the world gets beyond my grasp, and I’m feeling overwhelmed by the seeming triumph of evil, I find that biblical quotes seep out from the memory bank of my youth. It’s soothing to think that good will triumph over evil and that adults who lead young people astray will be punished.

I grew up with strict parents. My father was a high school teacher; my mother had been a teacher before getting married. They believed in guiding the young  to become good adults. They believed in moral duty, personal responsibility and doing the corporal works of mercy. They led by example. That’s what adults were supposed to do.

I’ll confess that I don’t know what to make of the cesspool in big-time college sports these days. The college scandals unfolding in Florida and Texas are mind-boggling. It’s bad enough that young athletes sell their souls for a buck. That’s nothing new. But how is it that so many coaches have become so dirty and corrupt? Why are so many educators going along for the ride? Where are the parents in all this? Where are the responsible adults?

In Texas, according to an Aug. 1 Sports Illustrated article, a Houston AAU basketball coach and financial adviser, David Salinas, ran a financial scam that bilked nearly $8 million from at least 13 NCAA basketball coaches. The overall scam netted  another $47 million from other investors, including NBA players and a former New Mexico athletic director.

Salinas, who committed suicide in July, funneled players from his elite AAU team to college programs run by coaches who were or became his investors. At least 10 of Salinas’ players since 1997 committed to schools that were employing a current or eventual Salinas investor, SI reported.

Salinas was also quick to provide money and services for his young players and their families, most of them low-income, the magazine said. The father of one former player said:  “David was the person you could trust to make sure your son became a man and got a college scholarship.”

So here we have a shady financial adviser manipulating parents, buying the services of young players and working angles to get them into the college programs of coaches who were throwing big money into his investment schemes and making themselves financially vulnerable.

In Florida, according to a Yahoo Sports investigation, a University of Miami booster and co-owner of a sports agency allegedly provided thousands of impermissible benefits to at least 72 athletes from 2002 through 2010. Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro, incarcerated for his role in a $930 million Ponzi scheme, described a sustained, eight-year run of rampant NCAA rule-breaking, some of it with the knowledge or direct participation of at least seven coaches from the Miami football and basketball programs.

At a cost that Shapiro estimates in the millions of dollars, he said his benefits to athletes included but were not limited to cash, prostitutes, entertainment in his multimillion-dollar homes and yacht, paid trips to high-end restaurants and nightclubs, jewelry, bounties for on-field play (including bounties for injuring opposing players), travel and, on one occasion, an abortion.

The booster’s sports agency signed two first-round picks from Miami and recruited dozens of others while Shapiro was allegedly providing cash and benefits to players, Yahoo Sports said. “Ultimately, what documents show is a booster who broke NCAA rules while simultaneously making tens of thousands of dollars in annual contributions to Miami’s athletic program.”

Follow the money and you’ll find hundreds, if not thousands, of young athletes bought and sold and corrupted. You’ll also find a mind-boggling number of adults who should have millstones tied around their necks and be drowned in the sea.

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