The NCAA steps up its investigation of Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel

We already knew the NCAA was looking into the recruitment of Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel. Now we have an idea that the investigation has extended beyond the point of a routine inquiry.

Two NCAA enforcement officials traveled to Noel's New Hampshire prep school for a three-hour meeting earlier this month,'s Pete Thamel reported Wednesday. Adding to the intrigue, Kentucky chief compliance officer Sandy Bell accompanied NCAA investigators for the meeting, a rarity were this merely basic fact-checking.

At issue, according to the story, is how Noel paid for his unofficial visits and why he associated himself with certain people. The two most likely to raise questions are 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 earlier this summer, had a link on his LinkedIn page to the website of a prominent sports agency.

The obvious question in the wake of this latest report is the same as it has been for months: Will this lead anywhere? At this point, the answer remains unclear.

For this to jeopardize Noel's eligibility at Kentucky, the NCAA will probably have to find concrete evidence he has accepted extra benefits.

The lengthy New York Times investigation into Noel's recruitment this spring revealed plenty of fringe figures attempting to latch on to Noel but no money trail. NCAA officials may uncover something others have missed, but we won't know for sure until they release their findings.

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