NCAA's broken and corrupt system exposed again with ugly Gregg Marshall saga

Dan Wetzel
·Columnist
·5-min read

A month after being accused of physically abusing players and an assistant coach — among other boorish behavior — Gregg Marshall stepped down as Wichita State’s men’s basketball coach.

He received $7.75 million to do so.

This is amateur athletics, supposedly. This is college sports, where consequences for the adults are rare and even when they do come, so does a seven-figure check.

The school investigated the brutal allegations, including punching a player and choking an assistant in addition to the general bullying of many, following reports from the Athletic and Stadium. While Marshall hasn’t admitted any mistakes, he chose to leave on Tuesday.

Wichita State is now without a coach and without a lot of money. While it would be easy to just point a finger at it, it isn’t alone. This stuff can, and does, happen everywhere.

College athletics “God up” these coaches so much that they become larger-than-life saviors and nearly any behavior (other than losing) is tolerated — all while embracing and defending a rule book that hammers players for even minor misgivings.

Gregg Marshall made Wichita State a winner, even took them to the Final Four. The fear he would leave for another job gave him all the power … for everything from millions of dollars in a buyout deal to an apparent silence inside the department as all this stuff allegedly went on.

Eventually it got so bad that even Marshall is out of work (for now). Yet he’s richer than ever. If Wichita State had any courage it would have just fired him and begged a lawsuit that might have aired all the dirty laundry that could prevent another school from employing him in the future (and that will happen, he’s won too much for it to not).

Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall gestures in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall gestures in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma State in Stillwater in December 2019. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

North Carolina State recently tried something like that. After allegations of NCAA violations emerged surrounding former coach Mark Gottfried, the school stopped payment on his buyout and dared him to come get it. So far, he hasn’t.

The Wolfpack plan should become common practice. It hasn’t. Just blindly writing checks remains the standard, perhaps because doing so is so common that no one even blinks anymore.

Inside college sports there may not be anyone even capable (or willing) of stepping back from the scrum and wondering why the system is the system.

Earlier this week South Carolina fired Will Muschamp for being a mediocre-at-best football coach. The school owes him $13.2 million to go away.

This happens of course — people underperform expectations.

You can’t feel bad for South Carolina though. They hired Muschamp after he had already proven at Florida to be a mediocre-at-best football coach. Over four seasons in Gainesville he put together just one winning SEC campaign. His final two years he posted a 10-13 record overall. At mighty Florida, mind you.

South Carolina hired him anyway. And then, in 2018, in Muschamp’s third season and en route to a 7-6 record, the school gave him a contract extension.

Why? Was Muschamp suddenly a hot commodity that other schools would pluck away? Of course not. No one wanted him. It’s just what college sports does … claiming it helps recruiting and not worrying about the money.

Since inking that extension, Muschamp was 6-14.

College sports continues to argue to politicians and judges that it can’t afford to cut the athletes in for any revenue. It continues to eliminate teams citing as an excuse the loss of revenue due to COVID-19. And it continues to try to enforce a rule book that hammers on petty crimes in an effort to protect its billions and dodge taxes.

There is no one smoking gun that points to the stupidity, the misplaced priorities or the appalling institutional defense of a broken system.

The entire system is the smoking gun.

Last month, a former University of Massachusetts tennis player named Brittany Collens had a conference title stripped from her due to the discovery of an accounting error that overpaid her $252 for a dorm phone she never used because she had moved to an off-campus apartment.

Yet, earlier this year, the NCAA wrote a letter to a federal judge seeking sentencing leniency for a man named Marty Blazer, who had pleaded guilty to stealing $2.3 million from his clients, mostly ex-football stars.

To most people, Blazer is a pathetic conman, snitch and thief. He was facing a maximum of 67 years in prison. To the NCAA, he was a hero worth injecting itself into a federal hearing because he supposedly helped them in some infraction cases. (Blazer, indeed, wound up getting just probation.)

Of course the NCAA would side with a guy who ripped off their former athletes as long as he helped bust their current ones.

To college sports, Marty Blazer is worth fighting for and Brittany Collens is worth punishing.

It's how guys like Will Muschamp can ride this system to generational wealth and guys such as Gregg Marshall can allegedly choke someone on his way to the bank and why some swimmers or soccer players somewhere will soon be without a scholarship, let alone a team, because there supposedly isn’t any money.

On and on it goes, college sports corruption baked right into the ethos of it all.

It sure is fun as long as you don’t care who is making millions off it. Which is what they are counting on.

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