NCAA investigation

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Report: NCAA given OK to investigate teams mentioned in corruption scandal

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With the college basketball regular season getting underway Tuesday night, this was a good time for a rather significant news dump.

Yahoo Sports reported Tuesday that the FBI has given the NCAA the OK to begin investigating some of the programs that have been mentioned during the recent cases on corruption and bribes in college basketball recruiting. Among the programs mentioned during the first trial were Louisville, Kansas and NC State.

Tuesday’s development is big because the NCAA will likely have access to information that it may not have been able to procure without the FBI investigation. The NCAA does not have subpoena power, which has a significant impact on investigations that involve former athletes, coaches or individuals who have no connection to an athletic department, as they cannot be forced to speak to NCAA investigators.

Last month former adidas basketball executive James Gatto, former adidas grassroots basketball employee Merl Code Jr. and former runner/aspiring agent Christian Dawkins were found guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. While Gatto and Code were found guilty of two counts, Dawkins was found guilty of three counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The lawyers for all three plan to appeal the verdicts in the coming months.

There are two more rounds of trials in connection with the FBI investigation that have yet to begin, with those scheduled for February and April. Among the men indicted who have yet to be tried are former Division I assistant coaches Tony Bland (USC), Lamont Evans (Oklahoma State), Chuck Person (Auburn) and Emmanuel “Book” Richardson (Arizona).

Rick Pitino responds to Calipari’s comments on NCAA investigations

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Last week Kentucky head coach John Calipari raised some eyebrows with his comments on a podcast hosted by Mike Lupica. During his appearance on the show Calipari alluded to the NCAA investigations at Louisville and North Carolina, stating that “if it happens on your campus, and it happens with your assistants and those people, you probably have a pretty good idea of what’s going on.”

Now Calipari didn’t refer to either Louisville’s Rick Pitino or North Carolina’s Roy Williams directly, but it wasn’t too hard to figure out the cases he was referring to in his comments. He also remarked on the NCAA’s enforcement of its rules, and the idea that some believe the governing body practices selective enforcement with the more powerful programs getting away with more.

Monday afternoon Pitino issued his reply to Calipari’s comments during his media availability at Louisville.

“Whether it’s Duke last month or us this month, these type of comments – we’re here to build up the image of college basketball, not tear people down,” Pitino said, making a reference to Calipari’s recruiting manifesto that many believed was a shot at Duke and its recruiting tactics.

“I don’t live in a glass house, and I don’t throw stones.”

Throughout the still ongoing NCAA investigation into the Katina Powell scandal that led to Louisville self-imposing a postseason ban, Pitino has stated that he personally knew nothing about the events that took place. Some may believe that while others remain skeptical

Per the Louisville Courier-Journal, Pitino also stated that he would look to see what Calipari meant by his comments should the two see each other at some point this summer. And with the two programs recruiting many of the nation’s top prospects, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which they don’t cross paths when recruiting reopens next month.

North Carolina men’s basketball not included in amended Notice of Allegations

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Eight months ago the NCAA investigation into allegations of academic fraud within the North Carolina athletic department was pushed back, leaving many to wonder when there would be any kind of decision regarding the fate of the men’s basketball program. Finally on Monday the school released an amended Notice of Allegations from the NCAA that replaces the original Notice, and Roy Williams’ program was not mentioned at all in the new report with the same being the case for the football program.

The program mentioned prominently in the new Notice is women’s basketball, which in all likelihood means that Williams doesn’t have much to worry about moving forward.

The Notice cites former women’s basketball academic support counselor Jan Boxill for her knowingly providing those athletes with extra benefits “in the form of impermissible academic assistance and special arrangements to women’s basketball student-athletes.” The use of fraudulent courses within the African and Afro-American Studies department, which at the time of the violations was led by Julius Nyang’oro and included former employee Debbie Crowder (who were both named in the reports), also appeared in the amended Notice but as noted above the men’s basketball program was not cited.

One big change in the report was the NCAA using a more specific “failure to monitor” charge in relation to the academic fraud that occurred within the African and Afro-American Studies department. Another is the start date of the offenses, with those being changed from the fall of 2002 in the original report to the fall of 2005. The end date (summer 2011) remains the same.

North Carolina will also have to deal with the “lack of institutional control” charge, that’s in regards to specific programs as opposed to the athletic department as a whole. But the “impermissible benefits” charge that appeared in the original Notice in relation to the men’s basketball program (among others) is gone.

Obviously this all good news for Williams and his staff, as on the recruiting trail they’ll now have some concrete answers for prospects, their coaches and their families. With recruiting being what it is, other programs could use the lack of concrete information on the investigation to recruit negatively against North Carolina. But with the amended report that’s no longer the case.

North Carolina now has 90 days to respond to the charges in the NCAA’s amended Notice of Infractions.

Northern Colorado dismisses head coach B.J. Hill

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With the men’s basketball program being investigated by the NCAA for possible rules violations, Northern Colorado announced Thursday afternoon that it was parting ways with head coach B.J. Hill.

Hill spent six seasons at the Big Sky program, posting a record of 86-98. During his first season at the helm, Northern Colorado won the Big Sky’s regular season and tournament titles, making the program’s first-ever NCAA tournament appearance. But after winning 21 games that season Hill’s Bears finished above .500 just once (18-14 in 2013-14), and in 2015-16 Northern Colorado went 10-21.

According to the school a national search will be conducted to find Hill’s replacement, but the fact that the program is being investigated by the NCAA could complicate things some. Northern Colorado’s top four scorers, led by guard Cameron Michael, all have eligibility remaining with three of those players (Michael, Anthony Johnson and Dallas Anglin) being rising seniors.

Head coach Ron Verlin, assistant not returning to Pacific

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Just under three months after suspending head coach Ron Verlin and assistant coach Dwight Young in relation to an ongoing NCAA investigation, Pacific announced Thursday that neither will be returning to the program.

This was supposed to be Verlin’s third season at the West Coast Conference school, but he led the Tigers in just seven games before the school made the move to suspend both he and Young indefinitely. Assistant coach Mike Burns led the team in an interim role from that point forward.

The investigation into allegations of academic wrongdoing began in early October, with the school making the move to discipline Verlin and Young two months later. Also the school also self-imposed a postseason ban for this season, so Pacific will not be competing in this weekend’s WCC tournament in Las Vegas.

Louisville self-imposes postseason ban as part of NCAA investigation

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Friday afternoon news dumps are rarely positive, and that was the case for the Louisville basketball program.

A source confirmed to NBC Sports that as part of the ongoing NCAA investigation into allegations levied by former escort Katina Powell, the school has declared the men’s basketball team ineligible for postseason play this season. The investigation has yet to be completed, and the NCAA has yet to send Louisville an official Notice of Allegations, but the school has decided to take this preemptive step.

During a press conference in which the school made the news official, head coach Rick Pitino noted that “speaking to the team and watch the players cry” was one of the hardest things he’s had to deal with in his coaching career. The players hurt the most for Damion Lee and Trey Lewis, grad students who transferred to Louisville in hopes of experiencing the NCAA tournament. 

This is the second consecutive season in which an ACC team has self-imposed a postseason ban in the middle of the year, with Syracuse doing so in 2014-15. In regards to this season, Louisville joins Missouri, Pacific, Southern Miss and SMU as programs that have announced postseason bans for their programs.

The Cardinals are currently ranked 19th in the AP Poll, with an overall record of 18-4 with a 7-2 record in ACC play. Considered a lock for the NCAA tournament, Louisville is also in position to win the ACC regular season title after handing No. 2 North Carolina its first loss of the season Monday night.

Now, that’s the only honor a team led by two players in Lee and Lewis who transferred to Louisville in hopes of competing for a national title can aim for.

News of the self-imposed sanction was first reported by Kentucky Sports Radio.