The dust has settled somewhat since the FBI announced its investigation into the corruption, wire fraud and bribery surrounding college basketball recruits. Trying to decipher all that is going on seemingly requires a law degree. Basically, the investigation is looking at shoe companies who allegedly pay player’s families to have the recruit play at a particular university and represent their products once the athlete turns pro. In college basketball, that often happens after only one season. Overall, a significant number of programs, including Louisville, could be impacted by the eventual findings of the ongoing investigation(s).
So what does this mean for the NCAA basketball season that is just getting started? The 2017-18 season got underway last week and kicks into full throttle in the week ahead. Louisville, one of the biggest schools involved in the investigation, begins its season Sunday, Nov. 12 in a home game against George Mason University. The Cardinals will not only be without iconic coach Rick Pitino, but also some of their assistant coaches. They’ve also experienced the de-commitment of two recruits.
Pitino has stated that he is cooperating fully with the investigation and that he will eventually be vindicated. Even so, the damage may already be done, especially in losing recruits. Louisville plays in the ACC with Duke, reigning NCAA Champion North Carolina and a number of other top programs. The impact could be quick, severe and tough to recover from, even in a long season that stretches until March.
There are other schools facing a similar fate. Arizona, USC, South Carolina, Miami, Oklahoma State and Auburn, at one level or another are under investigation. One can’t help but wonder if there is more to come. Who is next, when will it be announced and what impact will it have on their season?
Typically, early in the basketball season, teams play warm-up games. One would not generally get excited about a George Mason/Louisville matchup, but that game could have a new look this time around. In December things start to intensify. The North Carolina Tar Heels, for example, will take on Big Ten teams like Michigan and Ohio State, along with Tennessee.
Come January, the stakes get even higher when inter-conference play begins. And that is when we could really see the fallout from his investigation and the allegations surrounding it. In the sports world court of public opinion, you are guilty until you are proven innocent. Just ask the 2006 Duke lacrosse team.
So, what lies ahead could be an NCAA basketball season like no other. One where no one is out of the woods or safe, and one where a program could be riding high one day, and sinking the next. It’s going to a long way to March, with plenty of madness.