Nerlens Noel (Getty Images)The revelation that the NCAA is investigating eligibility concerns about Kentucky signee Nerlens Noel inspires one obvious question.
How worried should Kentucky be?
On the one hand, NCAA investigators typically only look into the background of prospects whose recruitment is fraught with red flags. On the other hand, the NCAA's track record of uncovering evidence damning enough to threaten an elite player's eligibility is certainly less than impressive.
The New York Times reported late Wednesday night that two members of the NCAA's enforcement staff visited Massachusetts to speak with coaches, school administrators and advisers to Noel. Among the topics covered were Noel's relationship with ex-Providence assistant Chris Driscoll and former Everett High School substitute teacher Errol Randolph, both of whom have served as advisers to the 6-foot-11 center.
A previous New York Times investigative piece detailed how Driscoll was banned from Tilton Prep School's campus after coaches alleged he was attempting to steer Noel to certain schools and did not have the player's best interest at heart. Randolph, until recently, had a link on his LinkedIn page to the web site of a prominent sports agency.
While those are certainly sufficient red flags to warrant an NCAA inquiry, there's also little reason to believe investigators will find sufficient evidence to jeopardize Noel's eligibility at Kentucky. The lengthy New York Times investigation revealed plenty of fringe figures attempting to latch onto Noel but no concrete evidence either he or an adviser had taken money to steer him to a particular school.
Maybe NCAA investigators will uncover a paper trail or other information they deem to be punishable, but past history suggests that's unlikely. And if that's the case, this investigation will be long forgotten by the time Noel dons a blue jersey at Rupp Arena for the first time next winter.