In a little bit of bombshell news, Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish of CBS Sports reported that the NCAA has notified teams recruiting Shabazz Muhammad, a five-star prospect in the class of 2012, that there has been some investigation into possible improper financial benefits contributed to Muhammad's recruitment. Specifically, the NCAA is looking at Muhammad and his father Ron Holmes' involvement with Benjamin Lincoln and Ken Cavanaugh, two people that Holmes states are family friends of Muhammad.
CBS Sports reports, and Holmes confirms, that Benjamin Lincoln helped finance two unofficial recruiting visits taken by Muhammad. Holmes mentioned that those trips were to North Carolina schools, presumably either Duke or North Carolina. Of the two schools, only Duke is currently recruiting Muhammad. It's worth noting that Lincoln's brother, Geoff Lincoln, happens to be an assistant coach on Muhammad's high school team, Bishop Gorman. Meanwhile, Ken Cavanaugh has been cited as a significant donor to Muhammad's AAU program, Dream Vision.
According to Holmes, everything has been "above board." He reportedly filed NCAA paperwork related to Lincoln's financial assistance, citing it as permissible due to the "family friend" relationship. As for the AAU angle, Cavanaugh claims his funding is due to a longstanding relationship with Dream Vision's head coach, Klay Williams. Holmes believes that "we do not think we've done anything wrong. But if we have, we'll deal with it."
That former/latter statement appears to be the crux of Muhammad's recruitment. On the one hand, if everything is indeed "above board" as Holmes claims, then the NCAA investigations should ultimately clear Muhammad of any wrongdoing. Pragmatically, it's actually a good thing for schools recruiting him that the NCAA has provided advance notification. The schools are essentially "on the same page" as the NCAA, and can, in theory, make better informed decisions about how to recruit Muhammad.
If the NCAA ultimately rules that Muhammad's recruitment contains improprieties, the million-dollar question may be whether those impermissible benefits total up to four digits or five. Kansas' Josh Selby was suspended for 9 games last year and had to pay back $5,700 in impermissible benefits, while Connecticut's Ryan Boatright was held out of 10 games and paid back $4,500. Rachet that up to, oh, say, a reported $33,000, and you're rendered permanently ineligible.
In Muhammad's case, it would be best for all parties involved--the NCAA, the team Muhammad chooses, and Muhammad himself--for the NCAA to resolve his case prior to the start of the season. That doesn't mean it will necessarily happen (see the Boatright case), but it's certainly likely with the NCAA starting its process early.
It certainly appears that teams will continue to recruit Muhammad with little fear of retroactive punishment. Kansas brought Muhammad on campus for an official visit last weekend, and Duke is set to host Muhammad this weekend. Muhammad remains interested in those two schools, along with Kentucky, UCLA, UNLV, and USC.
Now public perception is another issue entirely, especially if Muhammad ultimately chooses Kentucky over, say, Duke. For example, Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel spouted, "Need shower after reading." But we'll cross that bridge if we come to it.