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Death to the NCAA

College Sports Are Built To Enable Abusive Freaks Like Gregg Marshall

WICHITA, KS - NOVEMBER 13: of the Wichita State Shockers of the College of Charleston Cougars during the first half on November 13, 2017 at Charles Koch Arena in Wichita, Kansas. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
Photo: Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Wichita State Shockers head coach Gregg Marshall is the sort of college sports figure whose big-time success at a small-time school guarantees him a ton of power with relatively little oversight. In his 13 seasons with the Shockers, Marshall has made a Final Four, won the NIT, and established the program as a prestigious mid-major. He makes $3.5 million per year thanks to the Koch family, who run WSU as a fiefdom. As of this month, Marshall is also under internal investigation by the school for his behavior, and several former players and university officials detailed years of abusive conduct to The Athletic.

During the 2015-16 season, two players said Marshall chased after and punched Shaq Morris in the back of the head during a team practice. Two other people said Marshall berated a staff member before a game and put his hands around his neck. In a rather telling incident, Marshall was also accused of following a student after they blocked his parking spot, eventually cornering them, and screaming “Do you know who the fuck I am?” at them before trying to punch the student through the window. That incident was “widely discussed” in the athletic department, and a former player told The Athletic that people across the program were “caught in the crossfire”:

“It wasn’t just players — the academic people, the marketing, everybody. If you had to associate with Wichita State basketball, you got caught in the crossfire,” one former player said. “I lost respect for him because I saw the way he treated my teammates and other people.”

The Athletic

The story is thorough and damning, and it paints a picture of an abusive maniac whose behavior had to have been known by higher-ups. Most of the allegations are years-old, and a follow-up story revealed similarly horrific behavior from Marshall’s time at Winthrop (physically abusing players, telling one to “go back to Africa,” screaming at them all the time), though the investigation was only initiated this month. What could have accounted for the timing?

This spring, six WSU scholarship players and a walk-on transferred out of the program. The mass exodus came two years after Austin Reaves left for Oklahoma and became the program’s first significant transfer loss. The NCAA Tournament did not happen this year, though WSU has finished sixth and fourth in their conference over the last two seasons. For the first time since their NIT run a decade ago, WSU’s on-court fortunes actually seem to be dipping. A source told The Athletic that the outgoing players flagged university officials about Marshall’s behavior.

It should not have taken the prospect of a bad season to get administrators to deal with Marshall’s conduct, which players say university officials have known about for years. The story the former players lay out is one of a maniac being at best accommodated and at worst enabled by administrators as long as he kept winning. This is how college sports work: An emotionally and physically abusive psychopath is free to do as he pleases so long as the wins and revenue are flowing, and reversing that flow is the only way to get anyone in a position of power to give a shit.