Amid NCAA scandal, Beilein remains unblemished
Michigan men’s basketball coach John Beilein can afford a lax answer when discussing the recent FBI investigations into violations at college basketball programs. He’s earned that luxury.
“I take a couple showers a day,” Beilein said. “That keeps me clean.”
Some coaches around the country, it appears, need to shower more often.
Last week, the FBI released findings of mass corruption within college basketball, stemming from payment of recruits and the untidy relationships between shoe companies and recruiting. The FBI arrested four assistant coaches last Tuesday. Louisville, currently the most high-profile school implicated, has effectively fired its legendary coach Rick Pitino and has placed its athletic director, Tom Jurich, on a leave of absence.
Lousiville is the first major victim. It doesn't seem likely to be the last.
While coaches around the country plan calculated responses with public relations staff to fend off reporters’ inquiries, Beilein doesn’t have to sweat.
After all, he was recently voted the “cleanest coach in college basketball” in a poll of 100 of his coaching peers.
Wednesday, when speaking to reporters, a jovial Beilein didn’t tense up, nor recite some painfully-rehearsed plea of innocence.
Instead he came to the defense of the integrity of college basketball.
“How isolated is it? I do not think it’s rampant among NCAA,” Beilein said. “I don’t think the sky is falling in college basketball. I think there’s certainly some rogue coaches. How many? Maybe I’ll be proven wrong, but I don’t think there’s too much of that going out there.”
“There’s a lot of really, really clean coaches out there.”
While “the dark underbelly of college basketball,” as US Attorney Joon H. Kim described, slowly comes to the fore, Beilein remains perched above the fray.
He admits to having lost recruits over his staff’s overt “tone of compliance,” but notes that those aren’t the types of players he would want at Michigan anyway.
“People — whether its parents or prospects — if they are looking for that, they’re not talking with me or we’re off their list immediately,” Beilein said. “Because they know it’s not happening here, so we don’t even have to deal with it. It might not get us some recruits. Well, we don’t want those recruits that come for any other reason than what Michigan is all about.”
In 2009, Beilein was named head of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Ethics Coalition. He takes compliance seriously and doesn’t think he’s alone in doing so.
“I’m not trying to put ourselves on some pedestal,” Beilein said. “Most programs are doing it this way. I believe that deep in my heart, most of us are doing it.”
Though he maintained a joking tone at times, Beilein was unmistakeably stern in regard to his coaching peers who do violate the rules.
“If people are breaking the law, if people are committing felony crimes in our business,” Beilein said, “then get them the heck out of our business,”
“College basketball is my life, and it should be clean.”
Beilein went on to commend his team’s defensive grit, lament the hefty travel schedule, detail the trials and tribulations of the incoming freshmen class, discuss fifth-year transfer guard Jaaron Simmons’ desire to make the NCAA tournament and more. He didn’t dwell on the black cloud looming above the college basketball world.
He didn’t have to.