Unless you have been under a rock all week, you know that the FBI has been running a sting operation to bring to light the corruption involved in college basketball recruiting. Major shoe brands, top-tier universities, and even hall of fame coaches are being implicated in schemes to steer top basketball talent to specific universities.
Awaiting a press conference in New York where U.S. Attorney Joon Kim will break down the NCAA corruption schemes. The flow chart: pic.twitter.com/blEb2NGnoK— Tom Winter (@Tom_Winter) September 26, 2017
Ten individuals have been arrested by the FBI, including four assistant coaches. Chuck Person of Auburn, Oklahoma State's Lamont Evans, Arizona's Emanuel Richardson, and USC's Tony Bland have all been taken into custody, and some believe they are talking. Then the University of Alabama announced yesterday that they were parting ways with administrator Kobie Baker, and Miami has confirmed that they are under investigation.
And, of course, there is the total collapse happening in Louisville after it was reported that Adidas funneled $100,000 to Brian Bowen.
But what does all of this mean for Kentucky? Is this doomsday for all major programs? Or are the Wildcats in the clear? Here are four reasons you should not worry about Kentucky being implicated in the FBI situation, and two reasons that you should maybe take it easy on the Louisville fan in the cubical beside yours...just in case.
4 reasons you shouldn’t be worried:
1. Kentucky assumes that it is always under investigation.
Given the prestige that Kentucky basketball carries and the target on Coach Calipari’s back from media and other coaches, the administration coach above and beyond to ensure that everything is above board.
The eligibility and history of every recruit is scrutinized by NCAA officials, vindictive reporters (I’m looking at you Pete Thamel), and any rival coach that loses a recruit to Calipari’s staff.
Coach Cal knows this, and he is very intentional with every interaction. He also thoroughly vets all of his staff members, which does not appear to be a common practice across the country.
2. The University of Kentucky has not been mentioned in early reports.
With Louisville and Arizona being in the first crop of targets implicated by the FBI, it is obvious that they are out to get the top programs. You would think that if they were able to find any evidence against Kentucky (or Duke, UNC, or Kansas for that matter), then the Wildcats would have been the major target of the report to send a message to put all other programs on notice that nobody is safe.
However, there was zero evidence presented that Kentucky has been identified as “corrupt” in any of the early investigations.
The FBI tip line for NCAA corruption has just been opened.— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) September 26, 2017
I'd pay to listen to this machine in the coming days.
3. Kentucky’s compliance office does its job well.
Sandy Bell is a boss. She plays no games, she has no tolerance for incompetence, and she is committed to maintaining a strong reputation of compliance in Lexington. One of the stronger moves by the compliance department was hiring Rachel Newman Baker, a Kentucky native and former NCAA staff member, back in 2013. Her insight is invaluable in maintaining a cooperative relationship with the NCAA.
I've been told the mood at UK is along the lines of, "We're not doing anything wrong, and they know that" ... They seem unconcerned.— Ben Roberts (@BenRobertsHL) September 27, 2017
While Mitch Barnhart and Coach Cal run a tight ship, having Sandy Bell and her team as a fail-safe should make Kentucky fans sleep a little easier tonight.
4. Coach Cal has been reeeaallly swaggy this week.
I would think that if Coach Cal was feeling any heat from the FBI, he would keep a low profile and stay out of the limelight. However, he continues to live it up and let the world know how well things are going for him and his program.
With Congressman Andy Barr, David Bailey and Crystal Griner. pic.twitter.com/K2qddtTiUe— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) September 27, 2017
Have I told you that you people are crazy? Love it! https://t.co/kZJpTmUUOC— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) September 27, 2017
Does he look worried to you?
2 reasons you should be worried about the FBI investigation.
1. This week’s announcement is just scratching the surface.
Yes, Kentucky’s name was not found in the FBI report released on Tuesday. However, US Attorney Joon Kim was pretty clear that this is just the beginning. The FBI seized information from the Nike EYBL AAU offices.
NCAA players drafted in 2017 from that program include Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles of Duke and De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, and Bam Adebayo from UK. That does not mean that these players were involved in anything shady, but if that organization is found to be corrupt the mess is bound to be connected to a major program.
It is obvious that the FBI plans to leave no stone unturned. And as confident as I am in how the University of Kentucky handle’s its business, there could be a rogue booster or staff member that may be earning some extra money by working as a runner for an agent or shoe company.
Unfortunately, there is always the chance that there are some stones of which we are not aware.
2. Third-party involvement complicates everything.
Adidas has proven to be very involved in what Kim called the “dark underbelly of college basketball.” They moved money to recruits to push them in certain directions.
So far, we know that several schools were directly involved through the work of assistant coaches. But what if other shoe companies or beneficiaries found another way to funnel recruits to programs? Who is to say Nike or Under Armor could not be working with a booster or an alumnus that had a connection to recruits? What if there is a whole side to this scheme that we don’t even know about?
There’s also a report that Zion Williamson could be involved in the Adidas side of this scandal, though it’s more about an Adidas rep trying to steer Williamson toward Kansas, an Adidas school.
If anything wrong happened, Kentucky should find out, which means Williamson ends up off their recruiting board. That would be a tough blow for Kentucky, especially if R.J. Barrett picks Duke as expected.
Look, I feel good about where Kentucky stands right now with compliance and ethical recruiting. But there are so many unknowns at this point that I think it is irresponsible to believe that there is no way the program will be implicated during this massive raid the FBI is conducting.
Should Kentucky fans be worried? I don’t think so. Should they bet the house on Kentucky getting out of this unscathed? Personally, I would give it a little more time before going all-in.