The Big 12 Men’s Basketball Tournament is a highlight in the Kansas City sport scene every year.

This year’s league is one of the most balanced and competitive in the nation. The Kansas Jayhawks won the regular season championship with five losses. That is what makes this year’s tournament one of the most entertaining tournaments in years.

The entire country will be taken over by March Madness following the conference tournaments. Workplaces all over the country will post brackets for participants hopeful of winning the big pot. The NCAA has established the college championship tournament as a three-week, must-watch event.

Even if you are not a college basketball fan, you will fill out a bracket just to see if you can out think or out-guess everyone else. The NCAA and all the schools involved in the tournament will make a lot of money and everyone will enjoy the journey.

A problem hanging over the tournament this year is the FBI investigation of corruption in college basketball recruiting. It is amazing that people are shocked about the dark side of recruiting. You would have to be living on Mars for the last 20 years to not suspect this to be an issue.

The problem has become more and more accepted through the years. The world of agents, shoe companies and youth basketball programs have been working together to use the abilities of young athletes to make money. Payments to young super talents have been a way of life, and the NCAA and member institutions have chosen to turn their heads to the problem.

The bottom line is that big money can cloud judgment. This is also a problem in Division I football. It creates two huge cash cows for the NCAA. Schools who want to stay on top in college sports have gone along with cash payments, sexual favors, etc., because everyone is doing it; thus, the continuation of the exploitation.

NCAA schools have benefited financially from the student-athletes while many of these top recruits have not even received any meaningful college credit toward a degree. It is a scam that has continued to get worse each year.

The schools mentioned early in the investigation are usually in the top 20 in men’s college polls. It has not been determined if any of the schools were knowing participants.

The NCAA and their members have created an out-of-control animal. Head coaches can receive multiple-year contracts for millions of dollars. Schools receive millions of dollars if their teams are on top. Boosters want their schools to maintain winning programs and will spend a lot of money to keep them on top.

The NCAA, the governing agency, has chosen to avoid the reality of the dark side of college sports for one reason – MONEY. Something must change if NCAA college football and basketball are to operate in a fair fashion. Perhaps the athletes should get paid for their services. It is happening behind the scenes anyway.

The old line that college sports is all about the student-athlete does not hold up. Many of these young, talented athletes come from dire home situations. They are willing to use their talents as a bargaining chip to help their families financially.

In many cases they do not have a college education as a goal. They want to take their talents to the pro level in search of big money. However, less than 2 percent of those college athletes will make it to the pro level. That leaves most of them with no degree or athletic career.

The money they receive under the table to play at a college for one year will not carry them and their family through life. The party is over for them, but big money will continue to flow for the schools as the cycle of exploitation is uninterrupted.

The NCAA continues to negotiate big TV contracts. Perhaps the time has come for college sports to make the athletes a focus and priority – they are the reason for fan enjoyment.

• Watching the Royals in spring training was like watching a team from another city. You had to have a program to know who was playing. If Ned Yost and his staff win more than 75 games this year, he should be up for manager of the year. The rebuilding road will be a long one.

• I must say I agree with LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony – the NCAA may be a corrupt organization.

• My quote of the week comes from former NFL linebacker Sam Huff: “Discipline is the whole key to being successful. We all get 24 hours a day. It’s the only fair thing; it’s the only thing that’s equal. It’s up to us to what we do with those 24 hours.”

– Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 6 p.m. every Monday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at