Some thoughts on the federal investigation into corruption in college basketball:
The teams, so far
As of Thursday night, eight major college basketball programs have been linked to the federal probe of corruption in the sport.
Assistant coaches from Arizona, Auburn, Oklahoma State and Southern Cal have been arrested and charged with federal crimes. All four have been suspended by their schools. One of the coaches, Oklahoma State’s Lamont Evans, was previously an assistant at South Carolina, and his alleged improprieties while on the Gamecocks’ staff are also laid out in the federal documents.
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Oklahoma State announced Thursday that Evans has been fired.
So far, Louisville has been hit the hardest by the immediate fallout of the investigation. Though no coaches from U of L’s program have been charged with any crimes, Coach Rick Pitino and Athletics Director Tom Jurich have both been put on administrative leave and are expected to be fired.
Miami has also acknowledged that it is one of the schools being investigated in the FBI probe. Alabama announced the resignation of basketball administrator Kobie Baker — a former NCAA enforcement official — Wednesday night, and Baker’s departure is also related to the FBI investigation.
Those are the eight schools involved, for now.
As federal authorities made clear earlier this week, this investigation is ongoing and far-reaching. As more interviews are conducted and more search warrants are issued, more programs and figures related to college basketball will be implicated.
One question UK fans have been incessantly asking over the past few days: Does this scandal help Kentucky with (insert recruit’s name here)?
There’s no answer to that question yet.
Five-star recruit Bol Bol — the No. 2 prospect in the class of 2018, according to Scout.com — has been the most-asked about high school prospect, so we’ll use that recruitment as an example.
Bol recently cut his list to five schools: UK, Arizona, Oregon, Southern Cal and UCLA.
As you’ve already read, Arizona and USC are two schools that have had assistant coaches arrested in this case. (To be clear, no one around Bol has been accused, directly or indirectly, of any wrongdoing.)
Arizona and USC emerged toward the end of the summer as perceived frontrunners in Bol’s recruitment, replacing Kentucky as the perceived favorite. So, some UK fans on social media have jumped to the conclusion that UK could be back in the top spot for Bol.
The logic is that he won’t continue to consider Arizona and USC, and UK might’ve been No. 3 on his list.
It’s way too early for that kind of thinking.
We’ve already seen five-star players decommit from schools implicated in this case (more on that later), and we’ve seen uncommitted players cut implicated schools from their lists.
But judging what this or that recruit will do as a result of this week’s news will have to be done on a case-by-case basis. In Bol’s case, yes, he could end up at Kentucky. Or Oregon. Or UCLA. He could also decide to re-open his recruitment altogether and reconsider schools that he cut earlier in the process. New schools could come in, sensing they might have a shot with one of the top recruits in the country.
And it’s likely that many top prospects — especially those who were considering implicated schools — might take a step back from the process completely, see what happens over the next few weeks with those programs, and see which programs might be named next.
Three top-50 prospects from the class of 2018 announced this week that they have decommitted from schools named in the federal case and re-opened their recruitments: five-star guard Anfernee Simons and Courtney Ramey, formerly Louisville commitments, and five-star forward E.J. Montgomery, formerly an Auburn commitment.
That’s three top-50 recruits back in play, and more could follow suit. (It’s worth noting here that Arizona and USC currently have top-three recruiting classes for 2018).
247Sports national analyst Andrew Slater has already reported that Florida and Vanderbilt should be considered the new leaders for Simons, the No. 6 overall recruit in that website’s rankings.
These decommitments — and the troubles the implicated schools now find themselves in — will lead to five-star recruiting boons for others that don’t get ensnared in the federal investigation.
There will be lots of questions regarding the Cardinals’ program over the next few days, weeks, months and years. The biggest right now: Who coaches U of L this season?
Former Indiana head coach Tom Crean’s name has been widely discussed, and he is interested, but it’s unclear how interested he would be as a one-year, interim coach until the Cards can find a long-term one. And he doesn’t seem a likely candidate to be Louisville’s long-term coach.
My first thought when it became clear that Pitino was on his way out was Bellarmine Coach Scotty Davenport, a highly respected (and highly successful) Division II coach who is already in the city of Louisville.
Davenport would make a whole lot of sense on a number of levels, but he would have to leave behind his Bellarmine program — he’s been the coach there for 12 years — for what would almost certainly be an interim stint at U of L.
(There was some legitimate talk late Wednesday night that he was a serious candidate, for the record).
The easiest choice would be Louisville assistant coach David Padgett, who is currently in charge of the team’s basketball activities and reportedly met with U of L interim president Greg Postel about the position Thursday afternoon. Padgett is obviously familiar with the team and the players, but he’s never been a head coach and has been a college assistant for only four seasons, three of those at IUPUI.
Also, would keeping someone from the current staff — even if he’s not implicated in the federal investigation on any level — be the best idea for Louisville?
UK assistant coach Kenny Payne’s name has also come up. Payne, of course, is a former Louisville player under Denny Crum and one of the highest-profile assistants in the country. There’s been buzz of other former U of L players lobbying on Payne’s behalf, but it still seems unlikely that UK’s top recruiter will be the Cardinals’ next coach.
That’s been the answer to a lot of questions this week, and that’ll be the answer to a lot of questions related to this college basketball scandal for the foreseeable future.
Which college programs will be publicly named next? Which offices will be raided by federal authorities? Who else will be arrested, and which of those people will be willing to offer up evidence on others in the world of college basketball?
What will the shoe company circuits look like next spring — or will they even exist at all? If leagues like the Nike EYBL and Adidas Gauntlet are still around, will they be certified by the NCAA as events that college coaches are allowed to attend?
This story is only a few days old, and the questions are seemingly endless.