The college basketball programs for both UCLA and Georgia Tech have been in China this week in preparation for the third annual Pac-12 China Game set for Saturday in Shanghai.
Unfortunately, Saturday’s season opener in China has been overshadowed by the arrest of three UCLA players, LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley, and Jalen Hill. Ball, Riley, and Hill were arrested for allegedly shoplifting Louis Vuitton sunglasses on Tuesday. All three players are currently staying at a hotel in China that they are not permitted to leave until the court process plays itself out.
Ball, Riley, and Hill are facing up to 10-years in prison because of how strict China’s shoplifting laws are. However, despite how serious the Chinese government views shoplifting, LaVar Ball believes that his son LiAngelo will “be fine” and that “everyone’s making it a big deal. It ain’t that big a deal.”
While nobody in the know is predicting that Ball, Riley, and Hill are going to see anything close to 10-years of jail time, ESPN senior writer Arash Markazi reported on Wednesday that LaVar has been told to stop talking. Apparently, his comments making light of LiAngelo’s actions did not go over well.
Now that we’re all up to speed, notoriously outspoken former NBA head coach and current ESPN analyst, Jeff Van Gundy, was on ESPN’s broadcast of the Timberwolves vs. the Warriors on Wednesday night. During the broadcast, Van Gundy went on a pretty spectacular rant detailing the absurdity of college basketball as a whole, but more specifically, why UCLA and Georgia Tech are in China right now.
“Why is UCLA and Georgia Tech in China to play a basketball game? Missing all that school, and then force-feeding their fans the idea of ‘student-athletes’. If it’s such a cultural excursion, what is UCLA doing in the Louis Vitton sunglass section? They can do that in Beverly Hills. You’re in charge of that league, I’ll tell you what the answer is: money. They are trying to sell something to get more money.”
Van Gundy makes an excellent, if not obvious, point. The ‘student-athlete’ charade has gone on far too long, and couching the message behind trips like this as anything more than a money-grab is offensive to the intelligence of college basketball fans. Everyone knows what is really going on here.
Van Gundy continued: “Stop the nonsense about ‘student-athlete’ and I know they have tutors on there, and all that. You’re always going to get fed the same lines.”
The unfortunate truth is that despite the platform Van Gundy has on ESPN, all of his complaints are likely falling on deaf ears. College athletics needs major reform, but like Van Gundy, so many prominent voices have been saying this for years, but nobody is doing anything about so long as these programs continue to pull in millions and millions of dollars on a regular basis.