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Saturday, May 28, 2022

Rampant tampering, back-channel deals and ‘a f—ed-up cycle’ – The Athletic

It all sounded a bit far-fetched, but the coach swore by the story. Asked about living life in the swirls of the transfer portal, the coach, one with national championship credentials, recounted an encounter with college basketball’s strange new reality.

He told the story of another head coach he knows, a mid-major guy who shall also remain nameless, who hasn’t allowed his team to engage in postgame hand-shake lines. The public rationale he’s given is obvious and believable — COVID-19 precautions.

The truth, though? This is what good defense looks like. That mid-major coach has a player who’s more than good enough to suit up for a high-major program. And nowadays, even while knowing you can’t keep the fox out of the henhouse, you don’t need to hold the damn door open for ’em. Fearing an opposing coach from a bigger school might whisper sweet nothings into his star’s ear, the mid-major coach has kept his team (and that star) far away from those predators.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

Well, retold this story, a high-major assistant coach in another conference doesn’t blink. “Makes sense,” he says. For good measure, he adds that in the age of instant eligibility for transfers, something as simple as a handshake line can very much be a two-way street.

“Bro, after we played a mid-major earlier this season,” he recounted, “a kid leaned in after the game and was like, Yo, hit me up at the end of the season.”

This is college basketball in 2022, where the NCAA’s new one-time transfer rule has afforded players more options than ever and transformed the notion of roster building into a wild flea market of back-channel dealings, brazen tampering, burgeoning distrust, and a reshaped landscape for traditional high school recruiting.

How absurd is it all? The Athletic decided to ask.

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