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The FBI made quite a splash on Tuesday. Eliot Ness would have been proud of U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim, who announced that the bureau was bringing the hammer down on four NCAA assistant basketball coaches on bribery and corruption charges, and that it was also digging into a cash scheme involving a high-level Adidas executive and several of the college programs he had infiltrated.

Heads have already rolled — starting with legendary Louisville hoops coach Rick Pitino on Wednesday — and more of them are sure to find the, uh, basket. Thursday, ESPN and ABC News reported that the FBI has also subpoenaed officials of Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League.

“For the defendants charged today, the madness of college basketball went well beyond the Big Dance in March,” Kim said. “We hope these charges and arrests will help keep the sport clean and honest.”

During his news conference, the prosecutor released a phone number that would serve as a “tip line” for anyone wishing to come forward with further information.

I’m coming forward here and now. I have a lot of information for the FBI.

I’ll start with this eye-opening tidbit: The NCAA is rotten to the core. And it isn’t just men’s basketball. College football is just as sullied. Or perhaps I should be more specific. These sports are Mud Bowl-dirty in the power conferences.

For smaller schools, or for baseball or soccer programs or what the universities like to call the “Olympic sports,” the situation hasn’t strayed so awfully far from the ideal. Some athletes get full scholarships to play. Many get partial scholarships. Many others donate their time to the schools because they love their sports and/or want to advance their careers.

They compete before small crowds. “Cheating” is generally limited to stealing the catcher’s signs.

In big-conference football and men’s basketball, the violations aren’t perpetrated by a handful of rogue assistants. They are endemic to the sports. In fact, they propel the sports. Talk to any college student who knows a few football players and he or she can describe the nice cars all those athletes are driving. Fathers or uncles miraculously appear at the end of the bench, clipboard in hand.

Basketball is the worst, because the shoe companies have squeezed the game like the kraken. Promising prospects are identified and wooed by middle school. And as the details of the FBI charges explain, AAU coaches lead kids to the camps of specific apparel makers, who then funnel the kids to specific colleges (which also wear those brands), who then direct their athletes to specific agents and clothing reps. With palms greased at every step.

This all will make sense when I provide the FBI with the following additional information: Big-time college sports are awash in money. Swimming in it. They belly-flop into pools of cash and spit coins when they bob to the surface.

Last October, Business Insider ranked the top earners in college sports. Texas A&M led the way at $192.6 million, followed by Texas at $183.5 million and Ohio State at $167.2 million.

The Pacific coast was not left begging. Oregon was ranked at No. 21, Washington at No. 23 and UCLA at No. 25, all them reeling in between $96 million and $106 million.

Most of the dough comes from TV, of course. The big conferences all have their own networks, in addition to the cuts they get from ESPN, ABC and other broadcasters. The Los Angeles Times reported in July that each school in the Southeastern Conference, the empire of college football, received $40.5 million from TV contracts in the most recent fiscal year. Big Ten schools accepted almost $35 million each, Pac-12 campuses about $29 million.

Oh, and don’t forget the apparel money. According to BizJournals.com, UnderArmour is paying UCLA (my alma mater) $18.5 million to wear its threads this year, while Adidas is paying Louisville $16 million and Nike is giving Texas $11.96 million. And so on down the line.

Not that this massive capitalization has made the colleges rich. As the Mercury News has reported, the Cal athletic department finds itself nipples-deep in debt, thanks largely to its renovation of Memorial Stadium and construction of the Simpson Training Center. Cal Athletics came close to breaking even in the 2016 fiscal year — except that the debt service for the $460 million upgrades was $18.5 million, pushing the overall deficit to $21.7 million.

How can the universities receive so many wheelbarrows of money and still fight to break even? I have a tip on that, too. Look at what the head coaches are making.

As the 24/7 Wall St. site noted a year ago, if you survey all 50 states in our great land, the highest-paid public employee in 39 of them is a football or basketball coach.

Setting the pace for their brethren were Alabama football coach Nick Saban at $7.09 million per year, Michigan pigskin coach Jim Harbaugh at $7 million and Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari at $6.88 million.

Here in California, we’re much more progressive. Yes, UCLA football coach Jim Mora is our most lavishly compensated public employee, but he’s at only $3.35 million per.

None of this would necessarily lead to blatant rule-breaking, were it not for another piece of information I’m leaving on the hotline. This one’s a shocker: The athletes aren’t profiting a whole lot from all this largesse.

Every Saturday during the fall, we all tune in to watch Buckeyes and Seminoles do things on the football field. In March the entire nation is glued to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. We admire these players, glorify them, invest far too much of our identities in them. We just don’t pay them.

And some of them could really use the money.

I learned long ago that there’s no such thing as a typical athlete. They are raised in inner cities and farms and bland cul-de-sacs and McMansions. But let’s be real. A lot of these guys come from the economic margins. Division I programs are full of players who were raised by overworked single moms or grandmas. Some helped raise younger brothers and sisters, and would do anything to get those siblings into safer neighborhoods.

So add it up real quick. You’ve got a huge flow of money into college sports, and everyone is getting their pockets filled except for the young men who are doing the hard work, the ones risking their knees on the basketball court and risking their brains on the football field.

The result is inevitable. It’s practically drawn up like an off-tackle run in a playbook. The people making most of the quick profit — coaches and agents and apparel reps — are desperate for talent. Some of that talent is desperate for money. Bingo. A match made in heaven, and under the table. It just happens to be illegal and creepy and hypocritical.

Not that the NCAA cares much. The execs turn a blind eye to this pervasive corruption, then ring an alarm bell every once in a while when a student is caught making calls on a university phone card or, God forbid, trading signed footballs for tattoos.

In the long run, there’s only one way out of this mess: Pay the players. Pay D-I football and basketball players what they’re worth, and let the open market decide that worth, just as we do with their coaches. And don’t give me the old line about “paying” them with tuition and textbooks.

That’s wage fixing. And what good do those classes do for a one-and-done lottery pick like Lonzo Ball, who is commanding a base salary of about $6.3 million as an NBA rookie?

Paying college athletes will be messy, and it could have negative consequences, possibly even the elimination of some smaller sports teams. But it’s the only way to rise above the pervasive stench of this false amateurism.

Oh, and I have one more shred of information for the FBI: Not sure if you’ve noticed, but you have a few other things to worry about. Like terrorism both foreign and domestic, national opioid rings, human trafficking, civil rights violations, public corruption and the Nigerian woman who emails me every other day asking for my routing number.

The Russians carpet-bombed Facebook and Twitter with fake news stories to get Donald Trump elected president, and after that worked like a charm, he fired your director in an attempt to bully you into canceling the investigation.

I mean, there’s a lot going on.

So maybe you can go catch some bad guys and let the college administrators figure out how they’re going to pay their football and basketball players.

You can reach columnist Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Skinny_Post.

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