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Barkley lashes out against FBI in charged interview... 'We're never going to stop cheating'

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Like many people, Charles Barkley doesn’t understand why the FBI got involved with the ongoing college basketball corruption scandal.

But unlike most, Barkley has a platform to put the FBI on blast for spending its time trying to fix college athletics.

Barkley, who is currently in San Antonio for the Final Four, spoke Friday about the scandal which has put a cloud over the entire college basketball season.

In September 2017, the FBI went public with its investigation, which resulted in the arrests of 10 individuals on various fraud and corruption charges. Many schools were also implicated, including Barkley’s alma mater of Auburn, as well as the University of Arizona.

But Barkley, who lives in Arizona, said that cheating will always be a part of college basketball and that the FBI has bigger issues to worry about.

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“I’m still trying to figure out why the FBI’s involved,” he told reporters. “I didn’t realize that the FBI needed to be paying attention to college basketball.”

“Listen man, I went to college in 1981. We were cheating back then and we’re still cheating in 2018,” he added.

As part of the FBI’s investigation, Barkley’s former college teammate and longtime friend, Chuck Person, was arrested. Person used to be an assistant coach at Auburn, but was then arrested, suspended by Auburn, indicted by a federal grand jury and fired by the university.

Do you agree with Barkley?

Person is facing a maximum of 80 years in prison, which seems like a harsh punishment for activities that deal with college sports. This seemed to be the point Barkley was trying to make — that the FBI would seemingly have bigger fish to fry.

The corruption scandal seemed to calm down as March Madness approached, but another bombshell came out in late February, when a report claimed Arizona head coach Sean Miller was caught on wiretap discussing a payment of $100,000 to facilitate top prospect Deandre Ayton’s committment to the Wildcats.

“They say they gave that kid at Arizona (Ayton) $100,000,” said Barkley. “He was underpaid because he’s a monster. He’s going to be the number one pick in the draft. He’s a flat-out stud and they must have had closed bidding because I would have gave him more to go to Auburn.”

According to Forbes, if Ayton was paid $100,000 to go to Arizona, then the Wildcats got away with robbery. Forbes reported that based on the annual revenue the Arizona men’s basketball program generates, Ayton was worth about $3.06 million this past season.

Ayton declared for the NBA draft after Arizona’s season ended, so any discipline that the NCAA decides to hand out will be done so retroactively. It won’t affect his NBA eligibility, and at worst, Arizona may be stripped of its 2017-18 Pac-12 championship.

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Of bigger concern for Arizona is its reputation going forward. The school lost three class of 2018 recruits after the revelations, including former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal’s son, Shareef.

Barkley also said during the interview that student-athletes should be compensated, though he didn’t know how exactly the NCAA should go about doing that. But one thing he does know is that the FBI shouldn’t be involved in policing college athletics.

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Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009.
Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009 and previously worked for ESPN, CBS and STATS Inc. A native of Louisiana, Ross now resides in Houston.
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