A bizarre case unfolded in a Memphis Federal court last week, without getting much national attention. The trial is that of Alabama booster Logan Young, accused of paying $150,000 to a high school football coach in order to "deliver" Albert Means to Tuscaloosa to play for the Crimson tide.
Tony Barnhart's piece in yesterday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution covers the facts, and indeed, some small dramas from last week's testimony. Like Tony, I sure wish this trial was on Court TV.
Apart from exposing the seamy underbelly of big money, big time college football, there are several things worth noting about the case. Young is charged with paying someone to influence a kid's decision. No doubt, NCAA rules attempt to stop this, but exactly what Federal law did he violate? He's being tried under the RICO (racketeering) statute, which adds to the evidence that RICO's scope is too broadly defined, allowing too much latitude to prosecutors. Perhaps Greg or Mike at the Sports Law Blog can explain this.
Second, Barnhart notes the following:
Not only is Young on trial this week, college athletics is as well. Lang [the high school coach] testified last week that eight schools -- Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Memphis -- offered him money and other favors for Means' services.
The trial, which began last Monday, has exposed an ugly side of college athletics that is usually only whispered about with a wink and a nod. But it begs the question: If schools have become that aggressive when it comes to a lineman like Means, what must they be doing to acquire superstar quarterbacks, running backs and receivers?
Now, as an economist understands it, market prices are the result of competition. Assume for the sake of argument that Young did pay Lang, as alleged. But surely he would rather have paid $25,000 for getting Means to Alabama than $150,000. If indeed there was bidding for Means' services, it's a safe bet that the next highest bid was not far from $150,000.
Update: Greg at the Sports Law Blog answered the bell, and examines the puzzling nature of RICO's relevance to the case.