San Francisco • Mike Montgomery stood behind the wave of reporters crowded around USC coach Andy Enfield. The former Stanford and Cal coach leaned down against the backpack he took off his shoulders and placed on a stand, listening intently as question after question surrounding the ongoing NCAA recruiting scandal was posed to Enfield.
The tone of inquiries at Thursday’s Pac-12 men’s basketball media day revolved almost entirely around the bribery scandal and ongoing FBI investigation that led to charges against four college basketball assistants, including USC’s Tony Bland and Arizona’s Emanuel “Book” Richardson, plus an Adidas executive. So as Enfield was pressed and pressed, Montgomery stood still in the back, digesting the scene.
“There’s more than just the programs that you’re hearing about, I think,” Montgomery said in a corner of the media workroom inside the Pac-12’s offices in downtown San Francisco. “There’s probably people running a little scared out there, and rightly so. I think it’s probably good the FBI’s involved. It’s probably got some people re-thinking their position on this stuff.”
Montgomery was tuned in because he’s got a new gig. So does Utah athletic director, Chris Hill.
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott announced Thursday the formation of a task force designed to “address issues that are threatening the integrity of collegiate athletics and to protect our student-athletes.” The task force eventually will have anywhere from 10 to 12 members, but Scott announced Thursday that Hill, Montgomery, UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero, FOX Sports analyst Charles Davis and college administrator Tom Jernstedt are the first five members.
This decision comes a day after NCAA President Mark Emmert announced the NCAA’s own commission on college basketball, headed by former Secretary of State Condolezza Rice, which will work on “examining critical aspects of a system that clearly is not working.”
The FBI investigation stems around allegations that Bland, Richardson and two other assistant coaches face. Bland and Richardson specifically face several felony charges, including conspiracy to commit bribery and solicitation of bribes by an agent, among others.
Scott said the newly formed task force will look at the issues raised by the ongoing FBI investigation and “do deep dives into the culture and issues and recruitment” of college basketball. The task force force eventually will report their findings to the conference’s athletic directors by the end of the first quarter next year, Scott said. The results also will be shared with the new NCAA basketball commission.
“Some people are going to tell you it’s rampant and everybody’s doing it,” Montgomery said. “I don’t think that’s the case. I think obviously when the FBI gets involved, that’s a little different level. I think, as long as I’ve been in coaching for 42, there’s been stuff.”
Enfield, who refused to comment on the ongoing investigation, said he supports the Pac-12’s new initiative.
“We’re all for the betterment of our game of basketball,” he said.
Arizona coach Sean Miller broke his long silence in the wake of the scandal last week, releasing a statement that said he wouldn’t comment publicly as the investigation continues.
Miller repeated the same phrase Thursday when asked about the investigation by repeating, “I’m going to stand by the statement that I made.”
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said he was told by a coach this summer that if you’re not cheating, you’re cheating yourself. Krystkowiak laughed it off. After walking away, he soon realized it was not a joke.
“The amount of money and the amount of time that it’s gone on,” Krystkowiak said, “I just think it makes for a big mushroom cloud at some point that’s going to blow.”
The first eruption appears to already have happened. What happens next?
“It’s going to take all of us — all of us — to build back that reputation,” Washington State coach Ernie Kent said. “[To] build back that integrity back into our game.”