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On Orlando Antigua and scapegoating in college sports

02 January 2016 - USF Bulls head coach Orlando Antigua during the college basketball game between the SMU Mustangs and the USF Bulls at Moody Coliseum in Dallas, Texas. SMU won the game 72-58. (Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire)
(Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire)

The South Florida men’s basketball program is under NCAA investigation for possible academic fraud issues. The school admitted as much, and it’s yet another example of a college basketball entity outweighing the rewards to a higher degree than the risks and/or repercussions of attempting to cheat the system.

Will any university ever learn? Probably not. This isn’t the first time a program has come under fire for some shady issues, and it most certainly won’t be the last. Still, it doesn’t change the idea of how patently absurd it is to — allegedly — take a gamble on altering a university’s ethics for the sake of basketball wins.

For those unaware, South Florida assistant coach Oliver Antigua, who is the brother of head coach Orlando Antigua, hasn’t been allowed to go on road recruiting trips for some length of time. Moreover, the university released a statement later Wednesday saying that assistant coach resigned. The details of the how and why are not yet known, but it can be easily assumed that it’s connected to the investigation given what we know so far.

For all intents and purposes, save for whatever Oliver may or may have not done against NCAA bylaws, this story isn’t about him. It is about his brother, a man who hasn’t exactly put himself in a position to be Teflon against potential NCAA infractions.

Orlando Antigua, who has the most at risk here, is only 17-48 in his two seasons at the helm at South Florida. To make matters worse, the Bulls were an abominable 7-24 last season.

Basically, his head coaching tenure was already off to an iffy start as is. Now spinkle in some potential hard NCAA sanctions, and we all know the inevitable endgame if repercussions are coming — as the university will be more than willing to hurl its head coach under the bus in favor of a lighter punishment.

Granted, without knowing the full-scale of the alleged allegations, Antigua could have no direct knowledge of what was supposedly happening. Perhaps he, despite his brother now having the perception of wrongdoing attached to him, was somehow in the dark.

South Florida head coach Orlando Antigua (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire).

South Florida head coach Orlando Antigua (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire).

“Because the University of South Florida is committed to protecting the integrity of the investigation and ensuring those involved receive fair treatment, we cannot provide any details about the investigation at this time,” a statement released by South Florida read.

Obviously, the above statement couldn’t be any more than that. South Florida isn’t going to — at least not yet — admit to being complicit to cheating. It does the school no good in a variety of ways, not all of which negatively impact the basketball program, as it can hurt other aspects of luring high school students to the university.

Still, we know the endgame here.

If Antigua was some sort of transcendent, program-changing coach, South Florida would find a way to keep him… regardless of what role he did or didn’t play regarding the allegations. B

ut he’s not that. He’s an expandable guy with a .262 winning percentage as a head coach.

The differences of the abilities of a coach shouldn’t actually matter when a university is weighing its ‘to scapegoat or not to scapegoat’ options. Whoever rolled the dice should pay the piper. If it’s multiple people, then all should be punished in some form or fashion. At the same time, it is worth noting that not all punishments need to be the termination of employment.

Anyway, we function in a college basketball world that is systematically broken. The have-nots will forever be chasing the programs that are afforded huge lumps of money by way of conference affiliation or huge booster loot. For many a university, the only way those have-nots feel as if they can compete is to attempt to get an extra leg-up on other have-not competition by cheating.

Rarely, however, does it ever work out in the cheater’s favor.

People tend to lose their jobs, programs end up getting a form of sanction no matter what, and no one ever learns a lesson — yet another program in a year’s time will find itself in a similar situation.

All of that leads to an entirely different discussion.

One about the sanctions levied by the NCAA to cheating programs being much harsher than the ones currently provided in an effort to not only sway universities from cheating, but give them no other alternative than to follow the rules or be banned from play. After all, if college sports operates under the illusion that the most important aspects of a collegiate sports career is the book learning, academic fraud should be viewed as a worse offense than recruiting mishaps.

As for South Florida — more so for Orlando Antigua specifically — even if this ends relatively well for the university, it’s unlikely going to result in a favorable outcome for the coach. Now, if he won some more games that would be a different story. Which, as already mentioned, is part of the problem.

It wouldn’t be that, mind you, if we acknowledged that college basketball is a big money business and not some sort of student experience that dances on a magical ethical line. But the NCAA and the universities don’t operate in that land right now.

So, until then, let’s pretend that the firing of one man rectifies academic fraud… but only if his win/loss record isn’t impressive.

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