How will FBI bribery scandal impact programs involved in charges?
A bombshell was dropped on the college basketball world Tuesday as the FBI announced the arrests of 10 men on various charges of bribery, fraud and corruption. Among those arrested were assistant coaches from Arizona, Auburn, Oklahoma State and USC.
That four college assistants were arrested may not end being the biggest part of today's news as far as the NCAA is concerned. The documents also refer to incidents of money being arranged to secure recruits. Though not specifically named, Louisville appears to be brought into question here for possibly helping to line up $100,000 to secure an All-American recruit in June. Though that player isn't listed, five-star wing Brian Bowen who committed to Louisville almost out of the blue in June and is now a freshman on the Cardinals team looks to be the player in question.
Given that Louisville and Rick Pitino are on probation for a scandal involving prostitutes and recruits, there's no way the NCAA isn't going to dig in on this one. Could this be the way that Pitino's career ends?
The four assistants who were arrested for taking bribes to deliver players to financial advisers and agents were Emmanuel Richardson of Arizona, Chuck Person of Auburn, Lamont Evans of Oklahoma State and Tony Bland of USC.
Each of the four coaches has been considered a strong recruiter for some time and there’s little doubt their alleged actions could have serious ramifications on the recruiting trail. More than likely, it’s also going to lead to serious staff shakeups.
As things stand, Arizona looks like they could be subject to the most significant impact. It fired Richardson on Tuesday afternoon.
Arizona has the No. 2 ranked 2018 recruiting class and they are coming off of a class that ranked No. 3 overall in 2017. Sean Miller’s phone has to be burning up with phone calls from committed players like five-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly, five-star power forward Shareef O’Neal and four-star point guard Brandon Williams. There’s also no question that other programs are contacting those players to see if they are steady.
It is also relevant to note that if it is found any of those players accepted bribes to commit to Arizona or any of the other three schools, the NCAA would likely rule them ineligible.
In addition to that, Arizona is now without the services of a key recruiter and face multiple questions about the inner workings of their program. When you are trying to recruit players like 2018’s top player R.J. Barrett -- who was on campus over the weekend -- and other five-star prospects like Nassir Little, Bol Bol, Simisola Shittu and several others, news like this is going to have a negative impact.
Under Miller, the Wildcats have established themselves as the dominant West Coast recruiting program and they are fighting the bluebloods for the best of the best. It’s hard to imagine this news not benefitting those they’ve been competing against like Duke, Kansas and Kentucky.
Next we have USC. Andy Enfield and the Trojans currently have the fourth ranked class in 2018 and are prepping for a potential Final Four run in 2018. They’ve fought hard to become a destination for West Coast recruits and it shows with commitments from four-star prospects Taeshon Cherry from San Diego and Kevin Porter and J’Raan Brooks, who both hail from Seattle.
Should those guys look to open things up, it could be a benefit to the likes of Washington and several other Pac-12 schools. Bottom line, Enfield is in damage control mode today.
Auburn doesn’t look to be in the crosshairs quite as much in 2018. It has one commitment from five-star prospect E.J. Montgomery and he’s been committed for over a year at this point. However, where it could really hurt Bruce Pearl is in the class of 2019, where the Tigers have been considered a leader for five-star wing Christian Brown and a major player for the second highest ranked point guard in the class, five-star Ashton Hagans. Also, Pearl has already been given one show-cause by the NCAA for his actions at Tennessee. Anything that gets tied back to him regarding Person's actions will likely end his tenure at Auburn.
Likely the least negatively impacted of the programs who had assistants directly implicated in the scandal on Tuesday is Oklahoma State. Head coach Mike Boynton is in his first year as the head coach and his second overall year in Stillwater after serving as an assistant to Brad Underwood in 2016-17.
The Cowboys hold a commitment from four-star shooting guard Antwann Jones, a player for whom they had been considered a favorite to land for a while. It’s possible that others could take a run at him, but of all the players committed to schools brought under a negative light on Tuesday, he is the lowest ranked and would be the easiest loss to overcome were he to look elsewhere.
It’s going to be awhile before we learn how much impact Tuesday’s news has on Arizona, Auburn, Oklahoma State and USC, but it’s hard to imagine each program and staff gets away from this without some sort of fallout. Also, considering how aggressively the government is now looking into college basketball and recruiting, this appears to be just the tip of the iceberg.