Hall of Fame former Maryland coach Gary Williams regrets not speaking out more against shady recruiting tactics before he retired in 2010.

“I feel disappointed in myself because I knew this stuff was going on for a long time and I never really was vocal enough,” Williams said Tuesday on the DC Basketball Coaches podcast hosted by his former assistant and current Terps color commentator Chris Knoche. “I got criticized a lot in terms of recruiting because I didn’t get a certain player, but I should’ve been more forceful in my response to that because coaches know when certain coaches are doing things they shouldn’t be doing.”

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Williams didn’t hold back much on the podcast, which came after multiple reports in the past week revealed more layers of the FBI investigation that came to light last fall. He went in-depth about the current problems in college basketball and what he’d do to fix them. As a former coach who avoided dealing with AAU characters and runners as much as possible, Williams said he wants to see high school coaches return to power and he thinks eliminating recruiting in the summer would help make that happen.

Like many, he also believes it’s time to pay student-athletes and to move on from the one-and-done experiment. His confidence in the NCAA ushering in what he believes are necessary changes, however, remains low. That’s why he thinks the power conference schools should form their own association.

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“The NCAA can do all the Olympic sports, but football and men’s basketball the power conferences have to run that themselves,” Williams said, “because they’ll police that, they’ll monitor it. Obviously the NCAA can’t do it. They’ve proven it time after time after time that they can’t monitor anything. We’re talking, say, 75 teams (that) should be able to handle things themselves, have their own rules, pay the players if they want to, just do it that way. For so long, the NCAA kept telling you that a field hockey player should be treated the same as a guy that’s going to be a first round pick in the lottery. Who’s kidding who? Let’s get serious, this is 2018.”

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According to Williams, dirty recruiting has been going on for far too long, but it’s gotten even more out of control recently. Williams recalls not even being able to speak to Kevin Durant when he attended Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Md. The alleged reason: Texas placed him at the prep school.

“That happens all the time,” Williams said. “Schools put guys (somewhere) usually to get grades. In other words, Durant had been at a couple of high schools and he probably wasn’t qualified yet to go (to college) so he went to Montrose Christian and they did a good job of making sure he got the grades. There’s prep schools all through New England that do that, there’s Virginia, there’s a lot of prep schools around and that’s just part of the deal.”

Williams also had a verbal commitment from another player at  the Rockville powerhouse in Terence Ross, a Nike-affiliated prospect who abruptly de-committed from the Terps and picked Washington. It was considered an open secret that the Swoosh had intervened in his recruitment.

Over the years, controlling high school players has become more prevalent and sophisticated as more parties have gotten involved. The one-and-done rule made it so that players couldn’t get paid until they were a year removed from high schools, which basically opened up more opportunities for agents, runners and shoe companies to break rules and make deals behind the scene.

Williams said he couldn't speak to Durant. (Photo: USA TODAY Sports)

 

“Here’s the deal with the agents: you know why they give them the money, because they want to represent them. Their argument isn’t that eloquent. Their argument is, I’ll pay you now, you’ll play, I got you when the NBA contract comes,” said Ed Tapscott, another former Williams assistant, now the Washington Wizards VP of Player Programs. “That’s where the connection with the basketball programs come in. The deal now is you cut a deal with the program that these guys are going to and their job is to connect you with the agent.”

“In order words,” Williams added, “if you want this kid, then part of the deal is he comes back to me. Because that agent hopes that when he gives him this money he hopes that it gives him control of the kid so he can direct him to a school. And then you’ve got to shoe companies on the other side of that, basically shoe companies run the major AAU programs, so if I’m spending all that money on an AAU program, say if that program is wearing Nike, then I want that kid to go to a Nike school. It’s another avenue.”

Tapscott jumped back in: “Which means now that you get him for a Nike sponsorship contract when he’s an NBA player and a star and an all-star. Once a kid identifies himself as being a gifted player, what we now have done is simply line up all the payment systems before they go into college and the university’s job is simply to help protect the investment of those people who helped deliver those kids to the program.

“Now guys are saying great, here’s what I’ve got: I’ve got an agent that’s willing to fund the kid so I don’t have to worry about booster dollars, I’ve got a sneaker company that’s going to help deliver the kid to me so that they can have the kid when he’s an NBA all-star and basically my job is to protect the kid for these two parties. Now the deal was, some of the assistant coaches and some of the (head) coaches said, by the way, since you guys are handing out money, what’s my fee for the protection services? That’s where it all comes together. That’s what the FBI has now discovered.”

It’s important to note that there’s two different issues at hand: players getting funneled to a certain school for reasons outlined above, and agents and runners offering financial incentives to players after they reach college to sign with their agency afterwards. As Tapscott outlined, a lot of it runs together. But there’s a reason why Andy Miller -- the agent whose office was raided by the FBI -- had little success landing the players he paid, including former Maryland center Diamond Stone. He’s far from the only agent “playing the game.”

Also, the FBI isn’t involved to clean up the NCAA and its programs. The FBI is after individual for breaking laws.

“Over the course of time, the NCAA has done very, very little in terms of actually cleaning up the game. They wanted the game clean enough to sell. They didn’t necessary want the game to be clean. As a result, the FBI happened upon a circumstance … that what we have here is classic racketeering,” Tapscott said. “You have unaccounted for money being paid to people that is not being declared as revenue and although it doesn’t look like a helluva a lot to people, it’s extremely widespread.

"So now the FBI decides since these guys haven’t done a damn thing in how many decades, we’ll jump into this and see what it looks like and I’m sure once they got in they realize, ‘Oh my goodness, there’s an entire subculture of this.’ Now, what does the NCAA do in its response to clean this up. There will be coaches probably fired. The question is what will we do with major programs who have turned a blind eye over the years. That’s why we have a very different ballgame than we’ve ever had before. Head coach, wiretap, two words put together.”

Williams thinks the one-and-done rule needs to go. (But that’s not up to the NCAA, as the rule was put into effect as part of the collective bargaining agreement between the

Williams wants to end the one-and-done. (Photo: 247Sports)

 

NBA and its players’ union in 2005.) Williams’ idea is to allow high school players to sign with an agent and make an NBA team in the summer before college. If they don’t make a team, they can still go to college, but they have to sit out a year, establish themselves as legitimate students, and remain in school for three years.

“The whole culture of the one-and-done is wrong because if I’m one-and-done, then I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking money the year I’m in college because the NBA and the NCAA is keeping me out of the NBA when I’m 18 years old. I should be allowed to go and play because I can do anything else when I’m 18,” Williams said.

He also would change the recruiting calendar to nine months, from the start of school to the end of it, which in theory would help restore power in high school coaches and administrators who Williams believes are more structured and discipline.

“You can recruit the first day of school to the last day of school. You can’t recruit in the summertime. All recruiting has to go through the high school,” Williams said. “It would help college coaches too. A lot of the stuff that happens to college coaches happens in the summertime. They’re on the road, they get a chance to meet all these guys a lot of times, during the season you don’t have a lot of time to do a lot of different things. I think if you just took everything back into the high school time period that would help.”

Another thing: “Get the right people on the [NCAA Commission, which is being led by Condoleezza Rice]. Get a former player. Get Sonny Vacarro who knows everything about how this works. But no, no, we can’t have those people on the committee.”

“As a coach, all you want is a level playing field,” Williams said. “You want to go out and play against guys that have recruited like you have, or whatever, and if they get the best players then they beat you because they were better recruiters than you were. That’s fine. But don’t tell me a guy’s a great recruiter because I know he’s paying money. That used to drive me nuts. ‘Well how come you didn’t get this kid?’ Well, he gave him $50,000. That’s why I didn’t get the kid. And you can’t say that. It’s a coaches thing. When has a coach squealed on another coach?”