Bilas: ‘If USC Cheated, so Did Wooden’


In his column, Jay Bilas comes to USC’s defense regarding the NCAA’s sanctions. He suggests that if the NCAA blames the Trojans’ coaching staff for knowing about the misconduct and not doing anything about it, then John Wooden was also a cheater, as he did the same thing. The story is only available to Insider subscribers, but here’s an excerpt:

"Despite the clear problems with the NCAA’s standards and the case against the Trojans, many would say,  . Despite the lack of credible evidence, many would consider USC’s coaching staff to be guilty and complicit in any wrongdoing because the head coach and coaching staff are always responsible for everything that goes on in the program. Always. Good riddance, USC; you got what you deserved Well, if that goes for Pete Carroll, it goes for Jim Calhoun. And it goes for John Calipari, despite the fact that Calipari has never been named in an NCAA finding of wrongdoing (notwithstanding the NCAA’s flimsy standards of proof). If you are in charge, say many, you are ultimately responsible, and there is no way that the head coach couldn’t know what was going on right under his nose. Well, if you are among those that feel that way, you just called John Wooden a cheater. And as blasphemous as it seems, you would have to call Wooden an  cheater, and the chief witnesses against him would be his former players. admitted Several of Wooden’s players on his championship teams have admitted taking extra benefits from Sam Gilbert, an established representative of UCLA’s athletic interests during most of Wooden’s championship years, and have admitted knowing that such actions were illegal. In addition, Wooden himself is on record saying that he suspected that Gilbert might have been doing illegal things, and that Wooden may have been guilty of “trusting too much.” Yet the legendary coach’s 10 national championship banners still hang from the rafters of Pauley Pavilion. Can you imagine the reaction if Carroll, Calhoun or Calipari put forth the defense that they were guilty only of “trusting too much”? Nobody would take it seriously, and everyone would move toward a “show cause” hearing and the death penalty for any such coach asserting such a lame excuse."

While this comparison, to me, is in bad taste considering Wooden’s recent passing, Bilas makes a decent point. Is it fair to give the beloved icons a pass on misguided transgressions and only punish the people that “deserve” it?