NEW YORK — NCAA president Mark Emmert confirmed Wednesday that investigations are underway based on information gathered by federal authorities in the college basketball corruption scandal, but those investigations aren’t likely to be resolved during the 2018-19 season.
“This whole incident has cast a very bad light on college basketball and we need to deal with it as effectively as we can,” Emmert told reporters after speaking at the Learfield Sports Business Journal Intercollegiate Athletics Forum. “We’re not going to have everything wrapped by the Final Four because these trials are still going to be going on.”
The first of three federal trials concluded in October, with guilty verdicts returned on former Adidas executives Jim Gatto and Merl Code, and aspiring agent Christian Dawkins. The three currently are awaiting sentencing. Two more trials will be conducted in 2019: former Auburn assistant coach Chuck Person and Atlanta clothier Rashan Michel are defendants in the first one, slated for February; former Arizona assistant Emanuel “Book” Richardson, former USC assistant Tony Bland and former Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans are defendants in the second, scheduled for April.
Yahoo Sports reported last month that the NCAA had been given a nod by the feds to begin its own investigations. The association is helped by the newly ratified process of “importation” of information from other investigations, though it does not have access to all material gathered by the feds. Emmert asserted that his organization has “the manpower and the willpower” to tackle this sprawling scandal, but he also cautioned that the association is still more of a spectator in some aspects of the wide-ranging case.
“There are still ongoing trials, investigatory work being done by the U.S. Attorney’s office, and we have to be respectful of that,” he said. “We don’t want to inadvertently obstruct any of that justice process. We’re moving forward as assertively as we can, while still having to respect that process. We’re going to do this as quickly as we can but there are still legal challenges out there.”
Thus it seems that schools implicated so far – Kansas, Arizona, Louisville, North Carolina State, LSU, Creighton and others – would not be prevented from competing in this season’s NCAA tournament by any NCAA sanctions. While the premise of the No. 2-ranked Jayhawks, or any other implicated school, winning a national title could further cast a pall over the sport, there might not be anything NCAA enforcement could do to prevent it from happening.
“Maybe there should be more people ineligible.” — Notre Dame coach Mike Brey
Action taken by individual schools in response to the scandal has been barely perceptible. Louisville quickly fired athletic director Tom Jurich and coach Rick Pitino, but that had more to do with the succession of scandals at that school – not just the most recent one. Kansas suspended forward Silvio De Sousa after testimony that his guardian was paid by an Adidas bag man to secure his commitment to the Jayhawks.
That’s about it. Otherwise, the schools have stayed the course in terms of any public sanctions or suspensions of implicated players and coaches.
“We need to make sure that schools are fulfilling their role and holding everybody accountable,” Emmert said. “But the NCAA as an association of member schools is built upon the notion of collaboration and collegiality, and there’s a notion among the schools that they will all hold themselves accountable. So to the extent that doesn’t happen, I think all of the members are not happy with that.”
Said Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, who also was speaking at the forum: “Maybe there should be more people ineligible.”
Emmert provided more information on the NCAA’s proposed new structure for adjudicating major infractions cases. The recommendation is to appoint a panel of five people who don’t hold positions at NCAA member schools to rule on cases.
“Business leaders, former politicians, high-stature people the public will have confidence in,” Emmert said.
Emmert said there will be a vote at the NCAA convention in January on the recommendation, and if it passes the panel couldn’t be in place and active before August. Which again underscores that it will take a while before the NCAA is likely to start handing out sanctions related to the federal investigation.
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