Pac-12 Commissioner Scott committed to conference integrity
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott met with women's basketball coaches Wednesday and reminded them about his tough stance on integrity given the bribery scandal surrounding the men's game.
Scott planned to address the topic in far more depth Thursday during the conference's men's media day in San Francisco. He insists that holding the schools and programs to a high standard goes for all sports.
"We're very concerned about what we've read so far in terms of the allegations. If true, it's very worrisome," Scott said. "I'm going to have more and speak to this in more detail tomorrow. It will be obviously a relevant topic at men's basketball media day. ... I think you'll see us take some steps in this area, primarily focused on men's basketball.
"But the idea of wanting to ensure integrity of the competition, protecting our student-athletes and doing what we can as the Pac-12 to advocate or change and reform to ensure those principles cuts across all sports."
Coaches appreciated Scott's commitment to fairness throughout the conference and beyond.
"First and foremost, as Division I head women's basketball coaches, we're educators," California coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. "If I'm only talking to them about pick-and-roll defense or I'm only talking to them about running the transition lanes, I am not doing a complete job. This is a time in their lives they're learning how to be change-makers, they're learning how to deal with diversity. I think our No. 1 thing is to lead them as human beings. So if I'm not acting with integrity in my own job, I'm certainly not being the leader I need to be for them.
"The game of women's college basketball is unbelievable and we need to protect it. I think it's a good chance for coaches, given what's gone on nationally, to just take a look and say, 'Are we conducting the sport that we want to conduct? Are we conducting our business the way that we want to and need to, and I think generally we are. But it's a good chance to reset and say, 'What path do we want to go down here and make sure that we're the leaders in terms of how collegiate athletics is supposed to go.'"
Three men's coaches charged in a bribery scheme were freed on $100,000 bail Tuesday — Auburn assistant Chuck Person, USC assistant Tony Bland and Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans. They were arrested two weeks ago along with six other people in a massive college basketball scandal. Person and Evans have been suspended while Bland has been placed on administrative leave.
Federal authorities said the men helped to steer young athletes toward schools, shoe sponsors and agents using hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes.
"It's too bad, honestly," said Oregon women's head coach Kelly Graves, who also has coached at mid-majors Saint Mary's College and Gonzaga. "As coaches we're stewards of our games and I'd like to think that we all want to hold ourselves accountable and uphold the integrity of the sport by doing the right things. But sometimes the drive to win can make people do things that they maybe wouldn't normally do. Hopefully it doesn't mushroom even more into something bigger and that it stays out of our game."
Hall of Fame Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer isn't too surprised there are serious issues, saying "the money, the high stakes, unfortunately it's just a little too easy to go down that road."
"I think the situation, the perfect storm of there's a lot of pressure on coaches, you've got parents and players and agents, you've got all these people right there and you're right there with them, so it's kind of set up to be a problem," VanDerveer said. "It's disappointing. I don't think that's the case in women's basketball, maybe because there's not as much money with the shoe companies and stuff. Hopefully this can be something that will lead to positive change."
Also Wednesday, Gottlieb announced that Golden Bears star Kristine Anigwe hyperextended her left knee in practice last week and will be sidelined for about two weeks.
UCLA was picked to win the conference for a second straight season, followed by a tie between Oregon and Stanford.