Buzzing on Yahoo Sports:

The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Could a conversation overheard on a plane lead the NCAA to clear Shabazz Muhammad?

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

View photo


Shabazz Muhammad (Getty Images)

If UCLA gets Shabazz Muhammad back in the near future, the Bruins may have an NCAA investigator's chatty boyfriend to thank.

Lawyers representing Muhammad told the Los Angeles Times Wednesday they're calling for the NCAA to drop its investigation and reinstate the prized freshman as a result of a conversation overheard on an Aug. 7 commuter flight.

An attorney seated behind a man who described himself as the boyfriend of the NCAA's lead investigator in the Muhammad case said she overheard him say the NCAA would find Muhammad ineligible and not allow him to play this season. When reached by the Times on Wednesday, the attorney confirmed the story, adding she felt compelled to speak out because of "the cavalier discussion of this young man's future being tossed about for everyone to hear."

[Related: Top UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad ruled ineligible]

The revelation of the conversation is intriguing, but there are probably too many questions here for this to be a game changer.

First of all, this is a flimsy story based on secondhand and thirdhand information. Even if the conversation did take place the way the attorney claimed, it's entirely possible NCAA investigators simply suspected Muhammad would be ineligible based on the evidence they had already gathered and the boyfriend overstated things.

Secondly, while it would be unfair if the NCAA reached a conclusion in August since it hadn't received pertinent documents from the Muhammad family yet, investigators had already been working on the case for a while. They had enough evidence to reportedly warn schools recruiting Muhammad as early as February that his eligibility was in doubt.

At the same time, if conspiracy theorists choose to latch on to this story as evidence the NCAA is acting unfairly to Muhammad, the NCAA has nobody but itself to blame. That's because the NCAA did exactly what it is being accused of here with its misguided decision to suspend two Indiana freshman nine games last week based on a technicality.

In that case, the NCAA claimed it was suspending Peter Jurkin and Hanner Mosquera Perea as a result of $185 in payments their AAU coach made to Indiana's Varsity Club between 1986 and 1992. Since the payment made the coach a booster in the eyes of the NCAA, it opted to penalize Jurkin and Perea for the gifts they received from the coach — gifts that would have been permissible otherwise.

[Also: John Calipari calls out Duke for flopping, then backs down]

When backlash against the NCAA came from all corners of the basketball community, an NCAA staffer cited an investigation questioning the coach's relationship with Indiana and whether he was funneling players to the Hoosiers. The problem was the NCAA failed to provide any evidence corroborating that claim, so it appeared as though it had instead decided to penalize the parties involved beforehand and found a loophole justifying the punishment.

That the NCAA would mishandle that case so badly makes it understandable if some choose not to give the organization the benefit of the doubt with Muhammad. A conversation overheard on a plane is flimsy evidence at best, but it's also believable given the NCAA's recent history of deciding on a punishment first and then seeking out evidence to justify it.

What will also be interesting to see is what impact Muhammad's lawyer going public with this information will have. It could increase public pressure on the NCAA to reinstate Muhammad, it could strengthen the organization's resolve to keep him out of action or it could have no impact at all.

More college basketball coverage on Yahoo! Sports:

Other popular content on the Yahoo! network:
Magic Johnson is 'mourning Phil Jackson not being hired' by the Lakers
Heisman Watch Week 11: Texas A&M's Johnny Football makes a strong case
Y! Music: Darius Rucker, aka Hootie, reveals his love of sports (video)

View Comments (450)

Recommended for You

  • Former CB Brian Baucham Sues USC and Lane Kiffin

    Former USC Trojans' cornerback Brian Baucham is suing the university and ex-coach Lane Kiffin, according to an Associated Press report. In the September 2012 game, Brian Baucham collapsed during the second half and was taken to the hospital by an ambulance. Baucham hadn't played in USC's previous…

    SB Nation
  • Mark Cuban made comments about the NFL six months ago and he was right

    Peter King of Sports Illustrated looks back at the comments from Maverick owner Mark Cuban about the future of the NFL. ESPN's Marc Stein has a great write up about the premiere of the Berlin Tall's new movie.

    SB Nation
  • Rumor Roundup (Sept. 23, 2014): Sting, Austin Aries, Cesaro and the future of the Bellas

    Speculating on the rumors surrounding pro wrestling is a favored pastime of many fans, perhaps second only to actually watching the matches. In this daily column, we take a look at the latest rumors being churned out by the pro wrestling rumor mill. None of this has been confirmed as legitimate…

    SB Nation
  • DeSean Jackson doesn't realize the Washington Redskins lost to the Eagles

    Apparently Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson did not realize his team lost to the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday. Yeah, Jackson scored, he taunted Eagles players and fans, and he got his 'revenge' on this play. Check the scoreboard, DeSean.

    SB Nation
    Sun, Sep 21
    Washington34 - 37Philadelphia
    Game Recap
  • View

    Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti faces the media (11 photos)

    All of the parties involved in the Ray Rice elevator-assault scandal are being called to account for their actions, or inactions, and the Baltimore Ravens, Rice's now-former team, are now in the spotlight. Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti held a press conference

    Yahoo Sports
    Sun, Sep 21
    Baltimore23 - 21Cleveland
    Game Recap
  • Floyd Mayweather Jr. needs to own hypocrisy, treat his fighters like he treats himself

    The five members of the Nevada Athletic Commission would be well advised to do a search of the Internet and read Floyd Mayweather's own words from May 1, 2012, as they question him Tuesday. Chairman Francisco Aguilar ordered Mayweather, not only the world's best pound-for-pound boxer but the owner…

    Yahoo Sports
  • Get 40,000 Bonus Points-Chase Sapphire Preferred®

    That's $500 towards airfare or hotels. Plus, get 2X points on travel and dining and 1 point per dollar spent on other purchases. Learn More.
  • Report: Steelers signing James Harrison after losing Ryan Shazier and Jarvis Jones

    In order to bolster their linebacking depth, the Pittsburgh Steelers are signing former NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison. The Pittsburgh Steelers had a convincing 37-19 win over the Carolina Panther on Sunday, but it was costly. Jarvis Jones was placed on IR-Recall after suffering a…

    SB Nation
    Sun, Sep 21
    Tennessee7 - 33Cincinnati
    Game Recap
  • GIF: Brock Lesnar Curb Stomped by Seth Rollins at WWE Night of Champions 2014

    At some point or another it was decided that the finish to the Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena rematch at Night of Champions on Sept. 21, 2014, in Nashville, Tennessee would feature a run-in from Seth Rollins. It was also decided that Lesnar, vulnerable thanks to Cena spamming finishers for the last 10…

    SB Nation
  • Wayne Simmonds was ejected because his opponent was too slow

    Wayne Simmonds was kicked out of the third period against the Leafs on Monday night in the preseason opener. Korbinian Holzer of the Maple Leafs was really not alright with the above hit from Wayne Simmonds during the third period of the Flyers game against Toronto on Monday night. Simmonds gave…

    SB Nation
  • Gerald Wallace's contract is like a lottery ticket for the Boston Celtics

    Gerald Wallace was stoic last season. Wallace's three-year, $30.3 million contract was criticized by Celtics fans in a Bill Simmons piece published on Grantland. Eric in Springfield, Massachusetts: "Instead of a jersey number, could the Celtics convince Wallace to wear all the first-rounders we got…

    SB Nation
  • Darnell Dockett has tickets for Cardinals fan getting in a brawl with 49ers fans

    Sunday was kind of a wild day at the 49ers-Cardinals game. Aside from just the loss, 49ers and Cardinals fans got into a nasty brawl in the stands. It's a really nasty fight, with quite a bit of blood on the ground as the fight wrapped up. It seemed

    SB Nation
  • Undertaker rumors of poor health seemingly debunked by his wife, Michelle McCool

    Over the weekend, a weird rumor started making the rounds that Undertaker is in poor health or bad shape or whatever other term you want to use to signify someone is not doing well physically. The source for this was, apparently, Limp Bizkit lead singer Fred Durst, who reportedly dedicated a song…

    SB Nation
  • What's Your Definition of Success?

    Success means different things for different people, that’s why we’ve started “The Success Project”.

  • Diamondbacks to name new GM Thursday

    The Diamondbacks' search for a new head honcho seems to be coming to an end. The Arizona Diamondbacks appear to be nearing a decision on who their new general manager will be, as USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports that the club plans to announce their choice on Thursday. Per Nightengale, former…

    SB Nation
    Tue, Sep 23
    5:10 PM PDT
    Arizona at Minnesota
    Preview Game
  • Manning exposed: Seahawks win, Richard Sherman continues his season of subdued dominance

    Not nearly as easy as the Super Bowl, Seattle ended up just being a little better at defense than Denver was. Going into the Seattle Seahawks game against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, we had a very convenient frame of reference as far as what we might expect to see. After all, no other two teams…

    SB Nation
    Sun, Sep 21
    Denver20 - 26Seattle
    Game Recap
  • View

    Photos of the day - September 21, 2014 (34 photos)

    The Independence Monument is silhouetted against fireworks during City Day celebrations in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Oakland Raiders linebacker Kaluka Maiava tackles New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman in the first half of an NFL game and a boy

    Yahoo News
    Sun, Sep 21
    Oakland9 - 16New England
    Game Recap
  • Frank Gore almost speechless with disappointment following 49ers loss

    49ers running back Frank Gore met with the media after the 49ers Week 3 loss. San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore spoke with the media following Sunday's loss to the Arizona Cardinals, and he was almost speechless. Gore was asked about his limited use (6 carries in the game).

    SB Nation
  • Play

    LeBron & CP3 -- Train Together By Day ... Party Together By Night

    Work hard, play hard ... that's the way it was for LeBron James and Chris Paul Sunday -- who hit the gym together during the day and the CLUB together at night. LeBron and CP3 spent their Sunday training at the gym at UCLA with Bron's Cleveland Cavs teammate Tristan Thompson ... and even posted a…