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.
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.