Feds give NCAA go-ahead to begin investigating schools in college hoops scandal

The federal trial against college hoops corruption continues on Monday. (Yahoo Sports illustration)
The federal trial against college hoops corruption continues on Monday. (Yahoo Sports illustration)

The federal government has given the NCAA a nod of approval to begin looking into potential NCAA violations tied to certain schools implicated in the federal basketball investigation, according to multiple sources. This serves as the first step of what could be one of the broadest and most important investigations in the history of the NCAA’s enforcement division.

Sources said that the NCAA has been in constant communication with the federal government since September of 2017 when FBI agents arrested 10 men affiliated with the underbelly of basketball. And this step marks a natural progression for the NCAA’s investigative team, which has not wanted to interfere with the federal investigation, to prepare to begin its search for violations of NCAA rules.

Sources indicated that there was no formal letter or declaration from the federal government, but rather an acknowledgement that in the cases of certain schools the NCAA can now begin its own investigation process.

Sources did not indicate specific schools that the NCAA has been cleared to look at. Programs named in the first federal trial included Kansas, North Carolina State and Louisville. Nicholas Biase, a spokesman for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, declined comment when reached by Yahoo Sports on Tuesday night. An NCAA spokesperson declined comment to Yahoo Sports, citing the association’s policy of not commenting on any current, pending or potential investigations.

The first of three trials tied to a sweeping federal investigation into the sport’s black market ended in late October. Multiple lawyers tied to the three defendants, who were found guilty on all counts of charges that included conspiracy and wire fraud, have indicated they plan to appeal the convictions. Two trials scheduled for February and April remain, although legal experts predict the guilty pleas in the first trial could lead to better chances of defendants entering plea agreements in those trials.

Sources on multiple campuses tied to the investigation said they haven’t heard anything specific from the NCAA about the start of an investigation. But the general expectation on campuses impacted by the federal investigation is that NCAA action will begin soon. Among college athletics leadership, there’s a growing impatience at the NCAA’s lack of action, as the scandal could hover over the sport for additional years as the process plays out. NCAA investigations are generally slow and tedious, and the potential of double-digit schools being investigated certainly won’t expedite the process.

The college basketball season began Tuesday.

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