If Louisville doesn’t get death penalty, no program ever will again

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At this point in the process, just 24 hours after an FBI bombshell detailing the systemic corruption in college basketball that culminated in the arrest of four assistant coaches, two Adidas execs, an AAU coach, a runner for an agent and a financial planner, it is far too early to know what kind of punishment is coming down the pipeline for any of the programs or people caught up in this mess.

That’s not a conversation that we can have until the full scope of the FBI’s investigation is clear.

Just how much did Sean Miller know about Book Richardson’s dealings with Christian Dawkins and the players that he recruited to Arizona? Just how much was Jim Larrañaga involved with the recruits that are involved with what appears to be Miami coaching staff members? What did Brad Underwood, who is now at Illinois, know about Lamont Evans’ dealings? How many of those deals were cut when Evans was still with Frank Martin at South Carolina? Is this the end of Bruce Pearl’s coaching career?

More importantly, of the people that have already been arrested, who is going to talk? Who is going to implicate other coaches? Which program is next in the NCAA’s crosshairs?

And even once all that is figured out, we then have to wait for this information to trickle all the way through the NCAA’s different committees and enforcement staffs.

What we can discuss, however, is the death penalty.

The NCAA has not handed out the death penalty to a program since 1987, when they did so to the SMU football program for repeated violations of the NCAA rule book. It hasn’t happened since then.

And if it doesn’t happen to Louisville basketball after what has come to light this week, it will never happen to another program ever again.

Louisville is currently on probation. They were put on probation by the NCAA in early June because of a scandal that came to light nearly two years ago to the day. A member of Rick Pitino’s coaching staff, Andre McGee, was hiring strippers and sex workers for underage recruits and members of the Louisville basketball team. The Cardinals were caught. Players were ruled retroactively ineligible. Wins were vacated and the 2012 Final Four and 2013 National Title banners will, pending an appeal, be taken down.

Six weeks after that ruling, a coach from a school that can be identified as a Louisville was caught on tape facilitating deals for a 2017 recruit that can be identified as Brian Bowen and a 2019 prospect to be paid six figures worth of money from Adidas to enroll at Louisville. That coach, in the process, was recorded saying that Louisville “was already on probation with the NCAA” and that “they would have to be particularly careful with how they passed money” to the players.

Six weeks.

That’s all the time it took Louisville to go from having a banner taken down for one of the most lewd and lascivious scandals in NCAA history to paying $100,000 for a player and facilitating a deal for another while “particularly careful” to avoid NCAA detection.

That resulted is athletic director Tom Jurich losing his job. Pitino lost his job. That Louisville coaching staff will, in all likelihood, end up losing their jobs.

I don’t know if that deserves the death penalty. Ending the program would be severely detrimental to the city of Louisville, where the Cardinals are the resident “pro” team, and would hurt the players currently on the roster more than anyone else caught up in this mess.

I don’t know if that is the right answer. If the university has already cleaned house, to they really need to eliminate the program all together? Will simply taking on a few more postseason bans and some more recruiting sanctions be enough? After all, Louisville has been hit the hardest by what might end up being the biggest scandal in the history of college basketball.

What I do know, however, is that if this isn’t enough to earn the death penalty, nothing ever will be.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.