1-on-1 with Frank Martin: ‘I know we don’t cheat’
On Wednesday, South Carolina basketball coach Frank Martin sat down for an interview with The State to discuss how revelations from a federal investigation into college basketball recruiting have affected the sport and might affect it in the future.
Martin hit several interesting points, including:
▪ The upcoming trial of his former assistant coach Lamont Evans, who has been charged with bribery and conspiracy by federal prosecutors.
▪ Whether he believes a report that former USC player P.J. Dozier received more than $6,000 while in school.
▪ What percentage of high school players each year are involved in a recruitment process that breaks NCAA rules.
▪ If a completely clean program can have consistent success.
▪ Why college coaches who claim to know of wrongdoing in the sport don’t expose it.
▪ And, what he might do if head coaches against whom there is credible evidence are not sanctioned severely enough.
The interview could have led to four or five separate stories, but we felt it’s more informative presented to you as our request was presented to Martin: an honest conversation about the state of college basketball during what Martin calls an “audit” of the sport. With that in mind, we have posted the complete audio from the interview here and have provided a transcript.
You said in October that “whatever’s broken will get fixed.” What about the history of this sport makes you believe that? Why do you believe it?
Because there are good people. This sport hasn’t become great because of criminals. This sports has become great because of good people. Can you imagine if the feds went out and investigated, the way they are capable of investigating other sports? You don’t think they’d find corruption in other sports in recruiting? It’s the same thing. We’re no different. They just targeted basketball. Don’t ask me why. I know why, but we were targeted. We’re basically being audited. Every great company gets audited. When they get audited, they don’t like all the answers they get, but it’s your job to fix your answers. It’s like me watching film. We practice, practice, practice and I go watch film and I’m like, ‘We’re not doing this the right way. We have to fix it.’ If you don’t fix it, it becomes a bigger problem. Our game was built on unbelievable human beings who were tremendous leaders of people and because of that, and I’ve gotten to know a lot of these folks, it’ll get fixed because of them.
You said you know why the sport was targeted. Why?
Because of AAU basketball. You are starting to see it, you hear little conversation about it in football with the seven-on-seven. Why? Because it’s bringing outside entities who are not part of education to be involved in the daily activity and recruiting practices of some of these kids. That’s why we were targeted. I think there’s no doubt that the growth of, not high school basketball, I call it AAU but it’s club team basketball. The growth of that in the spring and summer, the amount of money that has been generated through those clubs and the shoe companies, the amount of money the shoe companies are investing into these events, anytime there is money flowing and being generated, it’s going to raise people’s eyebrows. People are going to say, ‘Wait a second, what’s going on here?’ I think that’s why we were targeted, but that’s my opinion.
You mentioned other sports and I think everyone believes you’re right that if the federal government went through let’s say the cash cow that is football what would they find? So does any part of the college basketball community feel picked on?
No, no. I feel happy that we are being audited. Listen, if they come in, and I’ve been part of an NCAA investigation before, if they come in and see that I’m doing something wrong or my office is then shame on me and shame on us, that’s the way it should be. I’m happy. I don’t want to speak for other coaches and what they know or don’t know. I take pride in knowing. I think it’s important that I understand what’s going on out there so I can make the decisions I have to make to lead this basketball program. Some of the stuff that has become public I kind of knew was going on. It’s my job to know, not to act ignorant about it. It’s my job to figure stuff out. I didn’t investigate people. I didn’t hire private investigators to get me information. I am very observant. Maybe it’s the way I grew up. I pay attention to stuff. I say this all the time, I worked the bar scene, I didn’t mingle with people. I stood in a corner where I could see the whole room so I could see where the problem was coming from. It’s kind of the way I work. When I recruit and go about my job, I kind of look at the whole thing. I am constantly paying attention to everything so I can figure out the moving parts. So I even though I didn’t have proof, because I’ve been on both sides of the fence, I kind of knew that some of these things were possibly happening. I just didn’t have proof but my instincts as man told me that. I am happy that this has happened. Our sport, just think about the amount of money that this sport generates for the NCAA. That doesn’t happen because everyone’s a crook. That happens because there are a lot of good people involved for the right reason. Unfortunately, in every walk of life, there’s bad doctors, bad attorneys, bad teachers, there’s bad everything in every profession. Unfortunately, we don’t pay attention to the 95 good ones, we always want to focus in on the five bad ones. And I’m just picking five as an arbitrary number.
You have said something similar to that in the past. Clemson coach Brad Brownell has said something similar to that. So, why aren’t you shouting from the rooftops and pointing fingers? Why aren’t you saying, ‘This guy’s not doing it right. This guy’s not doing it right.’ If you’re not telling the media, why aren’t you going to the NCAA and saying, ‘We have to clean this up. You guys have to address this.’?
What can the NCAA do if it’s not college basketball coaches involved directly in it?
So, you don’t know of any college basketball coaches who are doing it wrong?
Of course I do.
So, why aren’t you as a steward of the game, standing up and saying, ‘This guy is doing it wrong. That guy is doing it wrong.’?
Then the NCAA should offer me a job as an investigator, then I’d be more than happy to do it. I got hired to be the basketball coach at the University of South Carolina, to be the caretaker of the program at this university and represent the NCAA that way. My job is to do this job at this university. I don’t run around, maybe it’s the way I was raised, I don’t run around and throw stones, I don’t run around and accuse people because whatever I think I know is my gut and is hearsay. It’s my instincts. It’s my nature as a human being where I try to know what my environment is at all times. It’s not my place. Every campus at this level has a gazillion compliance officers, 37 different assistant athletic directors, we all have a league office that has all kinds of mandates. We have head coaches meetings for all kinds of educational purposes, rules and regulations. In the SEC, we have at least two a year. Obviously the NCAA governs. Everyone is aware of everything that is going on at all times. I could be wrong, but it’s not my job to spend my energy on the five bad ones. It’s my job to do my job the right way so the other 95 people get credit for doing things properly.
My argument would be that head coaches are in the best position to clean out the five percent who are bad. Do you buy that argument? It would take standing up and saying either publicly or to the NCAA, ‘Clean up this, this and this.’
I don’t see why not, but here’s where the problem comes. If I say School A or Coach A, I suspect this happening, they don’t have the power of subpoena, and as you can see, all the stuff that was going on, the NCAA would never have found out. Never. When you’re going to make an accusation, you’re putting yourself out there. If they can’t come clean with it, now you have a problem in your own fraternity, in your own profession. That’s what I’m telling you. You want to make me the director of enforcement in the NCAA, I’ll be more than happy to go get my nose dirty and get the five percent who are bad out. I don’t have time in my life to be investigating for other people. If I do that, I’ll get fired from here in three years. My job is to build this program. My job is to recruit the people that I feel can help us to continue to grow our program. That’s what my job is. My job is to communicate things with the decision makers on our campus, what I see. The decision makers on our campus, it’s their job to communicate in their meetings with their peers and at the league office, some of the inconsistencies we as coaches are communicating with them. There are a lot of conversations that are taking place. Everyone isn’t as blind to this outside of the coaching fraternity as people pretend to be. The problem is there is no proof, and the NCAA or the SEC office or the University of South Carolina, we have no way of gaining the proof that the FBI was able to gain on some of the stuff that’s coming out. You go down that rabbit hole and there is no proof and now you’ve put yourself out there and you’re probably going to end up not very popular in your profession. And, it’s going to crush you in recruiting.
Given that fact and that the NCAA has no subpoena power, do you just have to accept 5 percent fraud as the price of doing business?
I don’t know. Here’s my thing: I’ve always felt that the people who cut corners, sooner or later, they get caught. I’ve always felt that way. In anything that you do, I have never felt differently. People that want to cut corners and cheat, they aren’t going to impact me.
But they do impact you…
No they do not. They impact me if I choose to recruit the same kid they are recruiting.
But if Bill Self recruits seven of the top 10 players in the country and one them was a player you were recruiting and one of them was a player Rick Barnes was recruiting, that does affect you, and you get fired in three years because you didn’t win enough.
No, no, no, here’s the deal. If I choose to recruit a kid that you have to cheat to get then it’s pretty ignorant on my part to complain because somebody cheated and I didn’t cheat or because someone was willing to cheat more than I was willing to cheat.
I get that, but it does impact you and every clean coach in the country.
I disagree with that.
You don’t think that some guys get fired who would not get fired if they cheated?
I disagree with that. The problem we have is the people who got caught cheating, there’s no real whacking. I’ve got a friend of mine. His deal is public. He was at the University of Miami when that (Nevin Shapiro) investigation took place. I’m born and raised with this guy. Me and him are tied at the hip. He’s one of my closest friends in life. There’s not a more ethical human being in the business than him. He’s an assistant basketball coach. He utilized his frequent flier miles to buy a mom a plane ticket so she could get back home. I lost my mind with him. He has been blackballed and not been allowed to get hired at any Division I school because of that. See what I’m saying?
Yes, but I think you’re making my point for me.
If head coaches would get blackballed that way then the problem would be fixed. The problem would be fixed.
Then why isn’t that happening?
Because there’s no way to prove things. The NCAA because he put that plane ticket on his personal miles so he’s done, he’s caught red-handed. In all these other cases, there’s no proof. But now when you do catch somebody, make it hard for them to get a job. Don’t give people a two-year show cause and let them keep their job when they have a show cause, which is what happens right now. Or when the two years are up become re-hireable. My guy is as good a human being as I have ever met in my life. He made that mistake. Not to cheat, the players already on their team, this ain’t cheating, this is just trying to accommodate a mother who is trying to get back home. Made a mistake, he knows the rules. He paid dearly for it. If people that cheated in recruiting got treated that way, I think that problem would take care of itself. Let me flip what you are saying back the other way, if you look at my career, and it’s only been 11 years, would you say I’ve been lucky to be around success in my 11 years?
So how have the people who cheated affected me? They haven’t prevented me from succeeding.
Because you’ve been to one Final Four in 11 years and I bet there are guys who are cheating who have been to more and the reality is, if you don’t hit such-and-such a record in the next three or four or five years, you’ll be fired. But if you cheated to get a five-star, you could hit such-and-such a record.
OK, yes to what you’re saying. I don’t want to be labeled a cheater. That’s the way I was raised, not my cup of tea. I don’t want to walk around and walk into a room and be known as a fraud, a phony or a cheater. Everyone has to live their life and if they’re comfortable with everyone knowing they are cheaters and they have no problem walking around and being phony about it, that’s their problem. My whole thing is, the credibility because I don’t cheat, if I do lose my job, I’ll get another job. The guys that are known cheaters, very few end up getting another job when that day comes that they lose their job for cheating. I have a responsibility for every single person on this campus that’s affiliated with men’s basketball, everybody. I am responsible for the managers, the players, the staff members. Whether it’s the trainer, sports information, marketing, I don’t do my job, whoever Ray Tanner ends up hiring to replace me, that person might come in and say, ‘I want that person, that person all out.’ There’s a lot of people whose families depend on me doing my job the right way. I’m OK with that. I signed up for it. I can’t complain about it. I’m not going to jeopardize every one of their careers because I’m willing to cut corners and cheat. I’m of the opinion that the people that cheat, yeah in the short term they impact their peers, but as time goes by, they mess up everyone who is part of their organization because they’re all labeled cheaters as time goes on.
We have seen some high-profile programs be linked to this federal trial so do you expect more of the same, which is no severe punishment for head coaches or do you expect some heads to roll? Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said last week he is disappointed the NCAA is not being more aggressive. What do you think is going to happen?
I don’t disagree with Mark. Mark and I are friends. We kind of recruit in the same environment, we don’t recruit those kids that are popular on websites. A lot of people in recruiting, they are consumed with winning, it’s A.D.s who want to win the press conference with a head coach. There’s a lot of guys that recruit that want to win the press conference in recruiting. Mark and I are very similar. We are not interested in winning the press conference in recruiting. You go back and you look at all their players. The majority of them, nobody had any idea who they were in high school, where they came from. Or they were transfers from other schools. It’s just the way he does business. That’s why I respect him. With all that said, I tend to agree with what he said, that I wish the NCAA would be more forceful, more aggressive because now there is some proof of what has happened. As this NCAA Tournament comes in front of us here, the people that are clean have an opportunity to be in that tournament. But I go back to step one, the NCAA doesn’t have the ability to come up with the information that the FBI will give them. The NCAA changed their legislation last summer so they can get that information. There are still more cases coming. There are three more trials coming up. Who knows? I’m not privy to how much of that evidence has been handed over. I know what everyone else has reported, that the FBI has given the NCAA clearance to start acting. I have no idea what evidence they have so for me to sit here and pass judgement on anybody is wrong. Can I have my own suspicions, my own private opinions? Of course I can. Just like other people have them of me and who I am, but I can’t go out there and make public assumptions that are going to impact people’s lives when I have no proof. Now, if I was the investigator, I would have no problem going after every piece of information I need because that would be my job and I’m going to do that to the best of my abilities. What I would hope happens is if the NCAA has credible, real evidence that they would act on those people as soon as they can, not wait to get all the evidence to attack everybody as a whole. I would like for them, if they have evidence on Person A, Person B to go after Person A and Person B. I think they need to do that. What I hope is not happening is that they are waiting for all the trials and to get all the evidence and then decide who to go after. I would hope as soon as they have information on whoever that they would start acting on the information that they have. We still go back to the same thing, the NCAA has no subpoena power, nothing. In the stuff that you have read, how would the NCAA find out any of that information that became public? They can’t wiretap. They can’t trace what people in high school are doing. They have no ability to ask a question of anybody at a shoe company person. They can’t interview agents. They can but agents aren’t responsible to give them answers. You see what I’m saying? That’s where all the money from what I have seen, that’s where it was all taking place at, against that group of people. The NCAA governs me. It doesn’t govern high school players. The NCAA governs the University of South Carolina. It doesn’t govern a club basketball team. The NCAA governs member institutions. It doesn’t govern shoe companies and all that. So what’s that mean? All those people don’t have to talk to the NCAA. The only people who are required to speak to the NCAA? Me, anyone that works for me and any player the day they step foot on this campus, not before or after. I’ve got one problem with what’s happened with all this right now and it’s the only problem I have is Brian Bowen, we all know his journey because he was one of ours so we all paid more attention to it. He wasn’t the only kid named in all these reports. He wasn’t the only kid who is on recordings, not him, his dad was, yet he’s been the poster child for all this. He’s the only one that has been punished differently from everyone else. Everyone else whose name has come up in this thing, everyone has gone on to play college basketball. There’s only one that was not allowed. That’s where I am frustrated with it.
To take that argument a step further, we have seen Silvio De Sousa at Kansas in connection to this have to miss some time, and it does feel to me and I think to a lot of people that when heads roll, they are kids’ heads and that doesn’t seem fair or right. Do you share that frustration?
To a certain extent. If the kid is a part of the conversations in evidence, then he’s well aware of what is going on. If my 18-year-old freshman gets in the car with a guy who’s got a gun and an ounce of weed in the car, even though it’s not his, he’s going to jail just like the guy driving the car. Does that make sense? It is what it is. That’s the way life works. We’re all held accountable to our decisions, but I do believe that the kids get punished yet the adults that are part of all that are not but that’s where this whole FBI thing is a little different. There are some adults right now that are in an uncomfortable place in life. You can’t be an investigator and not have subpoena power. You can’t govern. Can you imagine if our police department, our FBI could not subpoena? If they did not get court orders? How would they ever get the evidence to figure out who’s doing right or wrong? That’s what the NCAA is forced to do. Now, if I do something wrong, they can get my phone, they can get whatever information they want from me. But the problem is that I’m not the one. Guys that have my jobs, it’s not money from my bank account that’s going to somebody else. It’s not that I’m sitting in my office doing A, B and C. There’s people on the outside getting involved in this stuff. Here’s something else: You know what I have to do, I have to speak to all these people that are on the fringe because I have to figure out what the recruitment is going to be like. I can’t say, ‘Player A is really good, I want to recruit him, he’s got an uncle who lives in South Carolina, I’ve got an uncle who wants to recruit him.’ Well, you’ve got to call this guy. That name in my head, antennas go up, ‘That guys no good,’ but I’ve got to call. So if you go look at my phone, you might find that guy on my phone so I have to have that conversation so I can figure out, ‘Is he really involved in the recruiting or is he not involved in the recruiting?’ We are in an information-gathering business. We have to gather all the information in recruiting to make sure it’s the right person, and in gathering information we engage with some people who, if I was bouncing again, I would never have a conversation with, but I have to have those conversations so I can gather information.
What percentage of the top 100 players on average each year would you have to walk away from in recruiting?
Ten. I like to word it like this, go look at the McDonald’s All-Americans and that kind of gives you the pocket of guys whose recruiting gets a little dicey sometimes.
So, does that mean the schools that are getting all the McDonald’s All-Americans are paying for them?
That’s not what I’m saying. You’re asking for a percentage so I’m giving you one.
I’m not trying to put you on the spot, this is just logical. If 75 percent of McDonald’s All-Americans are being recruiting in some sort of fishy way and five or six schools in the country are getting 75 percent of those kids, it stands to reason that those schools are cheating.
Then I go back to the whole thing, it’s not the coaches who are doing the cheating. It’s the people outside that are doing the cheating.
But the head coach would know.
Well, when there’s proof that a coach facilitated a conversation or was well aware of stuff that was going on that would end up benefiting them in that kids recruiting, that’s wrong. Now, why do I say the McDonald’s All-Americans, I am not trying to target specific schools. I am targeting a certain talent level from high school kids. Those are the ones that chances are are going to go to school for a one-and-done. Those kids, their whole attention didn’t start at the McDonald’s All-American game. It’s been going on since the 10th grade. All those kids, there is a relationship already through a shoe company. Go back and look at this, when’s the last time a McDonald’s All-American did not play on a shoe company circuit? Try and find that answer. It’s going to be a long, long time. All of those kids have already been identified by agents and shoe companies, two things the NCAA does not govern. So, when that time comes, the All-American game, there are already relationships in place with those two entities and those two entities brought the FBI into this whole situation.
Let’s remove proof from the conversation. My belief is it would be impossible for there to be an infrastructure to support illegal or unethical recruiting at the University of South Carolina without your knowledge. Whether you were involved for not, you would know. Correct?
I don’t disagree with that.
So, in places where that is happened, whether or not we can put a coach on wiretap, it stands to reason that this guy knows what is going on.
I’m not big on assuming other people do their jobs like I do, but I know this: I speak to my staff about this a lot, (the NCAA) passed this new legislation a couple years ago where everything is my responsibility, and I mean everything. So I tell them, ‘You want me to have your back? You better make sure you are doing things the right way and that you’re communicating with me before you take action in something.’ I can’t speak for others, but I’m going to speak for me, I pretty much know everything that everyone in my office does. For me to act like it’s not there would be pretty ignorant and deceitful of me, but Lamont (Evans’) involvement in this situation… That’s why I was pretty clear from the word, ‘Go,’ that there’s nothing there here for the University of South Carolina. There’s nothing there.
You have no concerns about his upcoming trial, that if that goes through the same process as this other one, that South Carolina will be affected?
I’ve got no concerns. I’ve said that to Ray Tanner. I’ve said that to everybody. If there is something there, then I’m going to be held accountable for that, but I know the way I manage my office and I know what I do and I don’t do. I don’t dance that dance. I know all those people. All the people whose names you’ve read, I know every single one of them except one. Everyone that is on that list, I have had long conversations with every single one of those guys. There’s only one person I didn’t know. I know Lamont. I have known him since he was a kid. Why he ended up in that dance, I have no idea, but I feel pretty comfortable that he wasn’t doing that dance when he was here.
Can an assistant coach move up the food chain in his profession without doing that?
Of course, look at me.
In the current culture?
I started 11 years ago. This summer basketball started in the ‘90s. I was part of starting whole EYBL Nike Tour. I was a part of their very first event. They hired me to help build their very first event. I am well aware. I worked for Nike. My high school was a Nike sponsored high school at the elite level. I am well aware of the involvement of shoe companies in grass roots basketball. I lived it. For me to sit and say, ‘I’ve got no idea,’ that’d be pretty stupid on my part. That’d be me just lying to you straight up. I don’t know, it goes back to what I’ve always said, as a high school coach, I was in education, there was a certain governing body, a structure that I had to respect as a high school basketball coach. I coached AAU ball and I got into college. As a college coach, I represent an institution of higher learning. There is a certain protocol that I have to respect and follow. There’s a structure that I have to live by. The only one of those three that I have been a part of that had no governing body, that had no rules and regulations, was summer basketball. We are trying to make our rules for college basketball fit into a world that has no rules. That’s hard. Everyone is consumed, I’m going to keep using five as the number, everyone is consumed with the five people that are working on the wrong side of the line, but the problem is that the well we all go to to drink water at is not governed. We have to create structure there. Now, back in the day, when there was no AAU basketball, there were some real crooked high school coaches that you had to go in and pay. Those were few and far between. From my high school coaching days, I met some guys who cheated, who came in and took a conversation to a place of, ‘We will do what we need to do to get your kid to come play for us.’ Me personally, I never entertained that conversation. On the contrary, when those guys left, I would tell the family, ‘That’s one school you don’t have to worry about.’ That’s just me, that’s the way I live life. Then I got hired at college, and I was working at Northeastern. When you recruit at Northeastern, you really don’t recruiting against a lot of cheating. Now I go start working for (Bob Huggins) at Cincinnati and start recruiting a different kid. When I was recruiting, because of what schools were involved in recruiting, I’d be like, ‘I know that guy would cheat because six years ago he sat in my office and said, ‘A, B and C.’ I know that guy is going to cheat so I don’t want to get involved with the recruitment of that kid because if those schools are recruiting that kid, they are cheating and I’m going to waste my time. Every once in a while I’d get involved with the recruitment of kid and I didn’t know who these people were and I’m knee deep in this recruitment and there it comes, ‘Bang,’ so I’m out. I went to Hugs one day. Everyone on the outside forever thought Hugs was a cheating fool. That’s the opinion the national media wanted you to have of Bob Huggins in the ‘90s.
I don’t know Bob Huggins at all, but when you say his name, I do put him in a certain pile.
There’s not a more ethical man in this business than him. So I went to Hugs and said, ‘I just got in the middle of this recruiting deal and I found out and that the 11th hour. How do you know who the cheaters are? I know some of them.’ He said, ‘The clappers. When you watch their teams play and their guard passes the ball out of bounds or gets out of the way defensively and they don’t take them out of the game and the coach is clapping, that’s a cheater.’ I just started laughing. What he’s saying is when players don’t do things they are being asked to do and the coaches, the one thing we’ve over every player is their playing time, and we don’t take them out of the game, that’s basically saying that player has the upper hand on the coach in some way, shape or form. That was his analogy. I have always remembered that and think it’s pretty fun. I’m watching film and I’m watching a team I don’t know anything about and I see that happen, it always comes into my head if they don’t take a kid out of the game. I’m not big, and it goes back to the way I was raised, I’m not big on calling the SEC or calling the NCAA. I don’t think that’s my place, but I’ll tell you what I do do, I will confront guys on the road one-on-one, man-to-man. That I do do.
How many times has that happened and how did it go?
Three or four times in my career.
How’d it go?
Just had a man-to-man conversation so that they understand, ‘C’mon man.’ I do that more for negative recruiting than for actual cheating because when people negative recruit, they are not impacting their staff, they are impacting my staff because they’re trying to prevent me from getting a kid, and that to me is more hurtful than a guy who is willing to jeopardize his staff and their families because of cutting corners. There are kids that are affiliating with people at the high school level that if you want to recruit them, someone is going to have to cheat in some way, shape or form. I choose not to recruit those guys. That’s just me. It’s what I believe in. The three or four times I have had something happen that I wasn’t comfortable with in recruiting, I don’t go to the assistant coaches, I go to the head coach and I’ll say, ‘Hey man, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah.’ I had one guy, I’m not going to identify, this was early in my coaching career, I said, ‘Listen, I’m a different bird. I don’t come from anything. I’m not scared of going back to making $30,000 a year as a school teacher. You do this again and you and me are going to have a problem man to man.’ Then he tried to bring in his assistant coach later on to take the blame for what happened, which made me lose even more respect for the head coach. I’m not a tough guy. I don’t pretend to be a tough guy, but when I don’t like how somebody does their job that I think impacts me in a negative way, I don’t call their superiors to send them to the principal’s office. I kind of go and confront them myself in an effort to give them a chance if we ever end up recruiting against them again to handle it the right way.
Would I know that person?
Can you be a regular Final Four participant as a completely clean program?
Yes, I don’t think cheating is what makes that difficult.
Because it seems to me that the programs that are playing with the McDonald’s All-Americans are the consistent winners, and if you believe…
OK, before you take another step, who won the national championship last year?
Villanova, but I would argue over the last 20 years they are an outlier.
Who won it the year before?
I’m not trying to separate those two programs, but they don’t really go recruit those top 10, 12, 14 recruits in the country. You’re talking about the one-and-done. Those are the ones that are tagged one-and-done. Those two programs don’t really recruit those kids who are tagged one-and-done. So, can you win at a high level consistently despite the wrong in recruiting? Yes. What makes it hard to win at the high level is not the five or six or seven wrongdoers, it’s the transfers. That’s what makes it hard in today’s day and age to get to a certain level and stay there. You get there and now not only do you graduate players but you have transfers and you drop. Now you’re fighting to climb. That’s what makes it hard to be a consistent Final Four contender is not the people who are doing it wrong in recruiting, it’s that we have so many transfers that it’s hard for a lot of us to sustain.
You’re saying five percent of programs are actively not recruiting the right way. The general perception, my perception, is that that number is much, much higher. Does it bother you that a lot of people think you have to cheat to win consistently in college basketball?
Does it bother me? No. It bothers me when you judge me on the wrongdoing of others. That bothers me. Now, if you have information on me, you have the right to judge me.
When most people look at college basketball, it’s not quite to level of cycling a few years ago, but it’s close. If you’re one of the people I see at the front of the pack, I assume I know how you got there.
How many college basketball teams do we have, Division I? 354? How many have been named? Ten? There’s 354 of us, that’s how small the number is. Now I’m putting my words into your language. If the FBI, who did all these wiretaps for two years and what’s public that we know if is seven or eight schools out of 354. So if went out and polled 350 banks, you don’t think there are seven of them that are working the wrong way?
Absolutely. So are you saying that’s kind of what we have to live with in college athletics?
Yeah, but those seven don’t prevent the rest of us from succeeding. If the tournament only included 10 teams, then that’s a problem. But, for 347 of us to get painted with the same brush that seven are allegedly involved in right now, that’s where I struggle. People pick on me because I’m different from most on the sideline. It is what it is. I bring that on myself. I can’t mad at the perception you are anybody else can create based on my actions, but for any other coach that’s demonstrative to get labeled in a negative way because people don’t like me because I do it in that way, that’s wrong. That’s kind of what is happening with this right now. Listen, the feds are involved in this audit. That means it’s real. This is not hearsay. This is real. Whoever is involved, the truth will come out because the feds are involved. When the truth comes out, I just hope that the people who are not doing what they are supposed to do get punished the right way. If they don’t get punished, then maybe it’s time for me to leave the business. Is that a fair answer?
Yes, it would make me upset if I was doing something cleanly and that was reflected in a certain performance level and I had a fan base in my ear screaming for me to do X, Y and Z….
But I can’t worry about that because if I start recruiting to make the fans happy and I end up cheating, you think those fans are going to protect me because I recruited the kids they wanted me to recruit.
No, but I think there is a large percentage of the fan base that would be fine with you making that trade.
I have to raise my kids. My children have to wake up every day and they have to know their father is a man of ethics, a man of beliefs so when they become men they can handle their business the right way. I’m going to give you a line I use in recruiting a lot because it’s what I live by, a lot of people have two cell phones. There was a time when we could only make two phone calls a week. Right now I’m not allowed to call anybody before the completion of their sophomore year I think. There are some guys that call. Some of these kids, the first day I am eligible to call and I call, they say, ‘Oh yeah, school A, B,C and D have been calling me for the last six, seven months.’ Well, they call from a burner phone. If I’m recruiting you and I am cutting the rules like that, in your mind, you know I’m a shyster and you know I’m willing to not respect the rules when I recruit you. So when I go recruit, I do it the right way. I say, ‘I’m not calling you before I’m allowed to because I’m not cutting the rules because when you show up on campus and I tell you, today we’re doing it like this, I need you to understand that that’s my word and I fight for my word.’
In the beginning of this investigation, it was reported that P.J. Dozier got $6,000 from somewhere. Do you have any clarity on what happened there?
No. That’s why I can sit here and tell you I’m perfectly fine that South Carolina is in a good place. I couldn’t tell you that if I had in any way, shape or form an idea that that took place. I believe in P.J. I believe in his mom. I believe in his family. We have a very good relationship. I was right in the middle of his recruitment. He wasn’t one of those recruits that I engaged at the 11th hour to convince him to come. I was right in the middle of that thing from the first day I got here. Were there some schools willing to do some things to get him to go to their place? Yeah, but I can tell you we didn’t, and I can tell you to this day, I have a very good relationship with that family. Whether it was give a player a ride or whatever, they called me first to get permission before they did it. I’d be very surprised if that took place, very surprised. Now, after he declared to become a pro and there are agents actively involved to retain his services, that’s fair game. That’s out of my control. As far as while he was a player here and his recruitment process here, I don’t see that one.
Is college basketball healthy? Is this a sport you think is in trouble?
Not right now. I think there were some cracks but I think those cracks have been identified and now it’s no different than people build a home and then see a crack on your ceiling or your floor because your foundation moved. You have to go fix it. That’s kind of the stage we’re in right now. The sport has grown. The amount of money and the attention. This sport is watched more now than at any point in its history. It’s just grown too big. The last 20 years, it just boomed. Well, what happens with sudden growth like that, it means more people are involved and we found some cracks. Now we have to fix the cracks, it’s as simple as that, but the stability of college basketball, I don’t agree with today’s day and age, social media, attention-grabbing headlines to get everyone overly consumed with negativity. I’m not into that. I’m into where I work at. Let me tell you something, if the evidence comes in and action is not taken against people that are caught doing things the wrong way, then you don’t have to worry about covering Frank Martin being a pain in the rear end on the sidelines anymore because then it’s probably time for me to get into a different profession. Or better yet, maybe I need to work in radio or television or with you and then I’ll be more than willing to go public with some of this stuff because if the people that can fix the sport are not willing to fix it then I have to make a decision. Do I want to keep collecting a paycheck in a profession that I have lost respect for or do I need to go somewhere where I can help fix a profession that I still have a lot of respect for?
You will not be able to convince me that a blue blood program will suffer significant consequences from this. Am I wrong?
What was the old saying. That the bigger school did something but the smaller school got put on probation. That’s NCAA evidence. That’s different. There’s no wiretaps. There’s no information on the cell phones of the people outside of the coaches. We supposedly have all this evidence now on others and there is policy now where the NCAA can use that evidence that comes from outside agencies.
And there are rules that state the head coach is responsible for whatever happens in their program.
Correct. I’m not going to sit here and based on some of the things that I know and some of the things that I kind of have a feel for, sit here and tell you that I want to see other people get fired based on those assumptions. But wherever there is evidence, I think action needs to take place and if action doesn’t take place, me personally, I can’t speak for the other coaches, me personally I’ll be disappointed. And if I’m part of that stuff, then action should be taken against me too. It’s as simple as that. It’s the way I live life. It’s what I believe in. I’m not the judge. I’m not the jury. And I’m not the executioner. I have a responsibility to handle my business the right way so the people who believe in me, the people who are willing to live with me, they can go home and sleep at night because they don’t have to worry about me jeopardizing their careers. Our system our society is set up in a way that there are people in charge of making the decisions about who is breaking the law and who is not breaking the law. When there’s evidence, I think people should be punished accordingly. When there’s not evidence, then we can’t be trying to kick people. You know what you are never going to hear from me publicly? ‘Well, man we won 17 games at South Carolina not doing what everyone else does. We don’t cut those corners so we should all be happy.’ You’re not going to hear that from me.
I’m not going to say it. You say it.
But I can’t report it because I don’t know what you know. You guys know the other guys who are cheating. I’m not using “know” in the legal sense, but you know.
I know who was cheating from my high school days who got in front of me and was willing to do A, B and C. Now, it’s just me putting my ear to the ground and trying to get involved in conversations so I don’t waste my time in recruiting.
You’re fine being judged in the same manner as a coach who cheats?
Yeah, you know why because I do in my heart believe people who cheat don’t win the end.
I think the evidence is totally against that in the history of college athletics.
Really? I just gave you the last three national championships. This is me, I don’t think Villanova and North Carolina cheat. I’m not talking about what happens on their campus. I’m talking about in the world of recruiting to get players to come play for you. I don’t think either one of those two programs cheat. I’ve gotten to know Coach (Roy) Williams and I know Jay (Wright). I don’t think they cheat. I feel comfortable saying that publicly. We went to a Final Four and I’m telling you we don’t cheat. I went through a chapter in my life in high school where I didn’t cheat and I got accused of cheating. I learned a lot based on that chapter. I followed the rule, the laws, they were respected and they were adhered to, but yet I ended up in the middle of a situation where I lost my job because there was wrongdoing at the school. I got blamed rightfully so because I was the guy in charge as I’m a cheater. I have had to live with that label for a long, long time. There are still people out there that will say my name and say, ‘That guy is a cheating fool from high school.’ I can go to bed at night, put my head on the pillow and sleep like a baby because I know I’m a man of ethics. I know I don’t cheat. I know I respect the rules. I don’t try to go around the rules. Now, it’s my job to understand the rules so I can work as closely to those rules as I can. But I learned that lesson a long time ago, so I pay close, close attention. We just went to a Final Four two years ago, and I know we don’t cheat. If I lose my job two years from now, three years from now, five years from now because we didn’t win enough, I’ve had a hell of a run man. You’re talking about some neighborhood dude. Who knows what I’d be doing right now without basketball. I’ve had a hell of a run and I have relationships with 90 percent of my former players that are unbelievable. That gives me joy every day of my life. I don’t try to trick people as I do my job so I can keep my salary. I am going to do my job to the best of my ability so I can impact people in a positive way. As I impact them in a positive way, then we’re either going to win games or we’re not. The people I answer to, I have these conversations I’m having with you, with them. If at the end they feel I am not the person for this job then I’ve got to go. It is what it is. I’m not going to sit around and blame the fact that five percent of our walk of life works in the negative as to the reason I couldn’t win. It’s not the five percent that kept me out. It’s that we weren’t as good as the 95 percent that didn’t cheat. That’s the way I view it.
I understand what you’re saying and it would make sense to me if it was five percent versus 95 percent.
People think it’s the other way around? The FBI just got involved. How many? Seven or eight out of 300 something. That’s my point, but the people who are covering this they don’t act like it’s seven or eight out of 300, they act like it’s seven or eight out of 20. Two years they’ve had those guys phones tapped. They’ve had the phones of AAU summer guys tapped. Do you really think they only spoke to seven people in two years? Everyone who is willing to cheat will get in deep conversations with those guys so you think in two years seven or eight schools would end up getting mentioned. The problem is we’re trying to judge the seven or eight against the top 20 programs in the country. That’s a big hit. That’s almost 50 percent, but there’s 300 of us.