The last couple of days have been amazing in the NCAA basketball world. FBI arrests of assistant coaches, Hall of Fame coaches getting fired, and the Texas Longhorns fan base breathing a collective sigh of relief over not having Tom Jurich as AD — raise your hand if you thought you’d be happy Steve Patterson was hired — things are swirling in the college sports world.
Do you realize how big a NCAA basketball scandal has to be for it to trump football news? It’s basically this and Dave Bliss...and that’s about it. Well, and news of an impending Texas Longhorns basketball season preview ebook, which is obviously enormous news.
Nearly every high-major school’s fan base is looking around, laughing nervously, and deleting any sketchy Whatsapp messages they can find on their phones. Some schools are rightfully nervous, like basically any of the elite Adidas schools. Bill Self is probably on his third burner phone this week, because being the flagship Adidas program is not exactly something you want to have on your LinkedIn resume at this particular moment. The Arizona Wildcats, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Louisville Cardinals, Auburn Tigers, and Alabama Crimson Tide have all either fired or suspended somebody in their basketball program, the USC Trojans & Miami Hurricanes are dumping fax machines and email servers into the ocean, and we’re not even 72 hours into the chaos. Louisville is likely to lose Brian Bowen to eligibility issues (because an alleged six-figure payday for a player is surprisingly not allowed by the entity charged with calling him an amateur athlete) and has multiple recruits decommitting now that the team is going to be coached by Scott Drew and who the hell really wants that guy, any way? (No, seriously, Scott Drew to Louisville might happen. Lord knows he’s experienced in exhuming a program from the dead.)
Rumors are flying like crazy, and they get more or less absurd based on the tides and position of Venus in the sky. Most of them aren’t fit to reprint, and honestly 80% of them will turn out to be bunk so let’s not waste the bandwidth. Instead, let’s talk about the Texas Longhorns.
Some people have voiced an understandable concern about Texas, given the Longhorns were in the running for Brian Bowen until late in the process. There is also the 20+ minute Facebook Live video of Mo Bamba’s shirtless half-brother promising a ton of dirt on Mo’s commitment to Texas — not to mention a free nacho bar that I’m still waiting on, it sounded tasty — that is likely in the back of your mind this week. So let me talk to what I’ve found over the last 48 hours. I have talked to six different sources, trying to triangulate a general opinion of the basketball program from people who don’t have a vested interest in pumping up the Longhorns or feeding me a line of BS. The vast majority of them express the same sentiment: Texas plays a pretty clean game. The prevailing opinion is that Shaka Smart and his staff are making an honest effort to recruit the right way. They gave me a handful of different examples I won’t go into in detail, but suffice it to say they made their point that the Texas coaching staff isn’t likely at risk of being ensnared in the current NCAA scandal. One person went so far as to say Shaka was happy to stay at VCU, and chose Texas in part because he felt it was one of the few schools where he could be successful without engaging in the shadier side of basketball recruiting.
There was one contrary opinion whose argument is (roughly) that at the highest levels of recruiting there isn’t anyone that’s entirely clean, which is a fair point to make, especially this week. I respect this person’s opinion, but I haven’t been able to corroborate their info to this point.
It’s still early and there is a lot of information yet to emerge. We could be having a significantly different conversation 6 weeks or a year from now as the feds reveal more of their evidence, but as it stands right now I’m feeling pretty good about how well-protected the Texas coaching staff is from Hurricane Pitino.
BWG’s writing tunes provided by James Haskell.