University of Missouri

Cuonzo Martin: ‘Rules are being broken and those universities should be accountable’

Mizzou’s Cuonzo Martin on the upcoming season

Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin discusses the team’s upcoming schedule and some early thoughts from summer workouts.
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Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin discusses the team’s upcoming schedule and some early thoughts from summer workouts.

Cuonzo Martin has never been shy at sharing a thought on the world of college basketball, including the ongoing saga of the FBI’s investigation into corruption in recruiting.

So when reporters asked him on Thursday morning about the lack of change following the FBI’s work, Martin didn’t hold back.

“You want the right thing to be done,” Martin said. “That’s the most important thing. Rules are being broken and those universities should be accountable for their actions. Not to make it sound black and white, but it appears to me that when you have four coaches with the FBI, but the head coach is still OK, and not to say that I know everything that’s going on, but I just think there has to be a level of accountability.”

Martin added that it’s impossible to know what his assistants are always up to, because he doesn’t spend every hour with them, but said when he finds out something is wrong with his program, he’s not one to sweep things under the rug.

“When they let me go, it will because he didn’t win enough,” Martin said. “It won’t be because of that stuff.”

When the FBI arrested four assistant coaches from Auburn, Arizona, USC and Oklahoma State in September 2017, many thought it would be the beginning of a major change in the sport, where for decades top recruits had been rumored to have been paid, and in some cases were. But as of Thursday, the head coaches whom all four assistants worked for have kept their jobs.

According to wiretaps presented in the trials for the assistant coaches, LSU coach Will Wade and Arizona coach Sean Miller were alleged to have either tried to secure players’ commitments through payments or were aware of money offers made to players they were recruiting. Former Louisville coach Rick Pitino remains the only head coach to lose his job as a result of the FBI investigation.

Former Arizona assistant Book Richardson was sentenced to three months in prison and two years of probation on Thursday morning, becoming the first coach implicated in the investigation who will serve jail time.

Martin, who serves on the NCAA’s men’s basketball oversight committee, said the investigation would have never come to light had it not been for the FBI, because the bureau has powers the NCAA doesn’t, such as the ability for wiretaps.

“I think that guys do things the right way, that’s who you are,” he said. “I don’t think guys that lose a few games, you try and do this now. That doesn’t happen. That’s who you are as a person.

“I think for me, the presidents of those schools or the athletic directors, something has to give at some point,” he added. “Because you made the hire.”

The schedule

Martin said Missouri’s 2019-20 schedule is all but set, with the final big hurdle being the team’s home game against Utah. Mizzou played at Utah during Martin’s first season in 2017-18, but the Utes had to push the second game back a year because of scheduling issues. It appears the Utes are similar problems again.

“For some strange reason that’s a moving target,” Martin joked.

Missouri will also play in the Southeastern Conference/Big 12 Challenge next year and Martin said MU’s game likely will be on the road.

Transfers

Martin said Missouri didn’t look at adding a graduate transfer during the spring recruiting period because of his satisfaction with the current roster.

When Columbia native Jimmy Whitt announced he was transferring from Southern Methodist, many fans lobbied for the Tigers to bring the 6-foot-4 guard back home. Whitt ultimately committed to Arkansas, where he played his first season of college basketball.

“I try to stay away from stockpiling,” Martin said. “Especially in today’s game, a guy will transfer on the dime.”

Injury update

Rising junior Mark Smith is out of a walking boot after having foot surgery on his left foot. Martin said he can shoot, but hasn’t been cleared to run. Martin reiterated that he expects no further roster attrition or staff changes for the upcoming season.

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Alex Schiffer has been covering the Missouri Tigers for The Star since October 2017. He came in second place for magazine-length feature writing by the U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association in 2018 and graduated from Mizzou in 2017.

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