Late Thursday night, on the heels of their best win this season, news broke via Jeff Jacobs of Hearst Connecticut Media that the UConn Huskies men’s basketball team was under investigation by the NCAA for potential recruiting violations. This striking news puts even more damper on what has already been a tumultuous year for the program.
Truthfully, there is not a lot of information to analyze. What we do know, is this: Sometime over the past couple months, an external source reported potential violations to the NCAA surrounding UConn men’s basketball recruiting. Since then, the NCAA has conducted approximately one hundred hours of interviews involving coaches, players, former players, and others related to the program. It is rather astounding that this investigation seems to have been kept under wraps for at least a couple weeks.
It does not appear that this investigation has any relation to the FBI probe currently hanging over all of college basketball like a dark cloud. Following those revelations, the NCAA directed all D-I programs to conduct internal reviews of their programs. The only connection is that UConn has hired the same law firm in this current case that they used last fall to conduct their internal review. The results of this review were normal, and both Coach Kevin Ollie and school president Susan Herbst declared the program clean.
Beyond these facts, virtually nothing has been confirmed about the current investigation that is unrelated to the FBI investigation. This, however, has not stopped rampant speculation on the parts of both media and fans. It is of the utmost importance to take any analysis, including the following paragraphs, with a grain of salt. No one knows anything official, and those that might are not going to be talking with reporters. There is no knowledge relating to the level of potential violation, or if an infraction was even truly committed.
On September 1st, Sidney Wilson, a top-100 wing out of New York in the class of 2017, committed to UConn after earlier deciding to transfer from St. John’s after only taking a couple weeks of summer classes. When Wilson announced his initial decision to attend St. John’s, UConn was widely perceived as the runner-up for his services. Recently, UConn was informed that their waiver application in order to make Wilson eligible for this season had been denied by the NCAA. During the waiver application process, St. John’s was not helpful whatsoever in UConn’s attempts to make Wilson eligible. Is it possible that St. John’s accused UConn of tampering with Wilson before he officially announced his intent to transfer? There is no evidence to support this accusation, or that UConn is guilty of the potential infraction. However, the pieces would fit, especially with this news breaking only hours after news broke that UConn’s final appeal to earn Wilson eligibility was denied. It must be reiterated that the above is ALL speculation and that as of now St. John’s nor Wilson are known to be involved in the investigation.
Other scenarios may be more pernicious. Like any major program, UConn has likely in the past walked very close to the line in terms of recruiting legally. In 2010, the school was placed on probation for violations involving class of 2008 forward Nate Miles, who due to separate issues actually never played a second for Coach Jim Calhoun. The violation reportedly involved sending too many text messages to the recruit, and an assistant coach was guilty of the offense. Since then, the rules surrounding such violations have been removed. However, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. By all accounts, Ollie is a squeaky-clean family man. Many within the college basketball landscape even postulate that his willingness to recruit completely by the book has cost him recruits in the past. Therefore, if he was actually committing major recruiting violations (and ironically, when you look at the current UConn roster, not succeeding in landing top-level prospects), it would come as a shock not just to UConn fans, but college basketball fans around the country.
It’s likely more will be revealed within the following days. Until more facts are presented, rampant speculation, much of it negative, will dominate the story. All I can do as a UConn fan is ask those of you who follow this news to wait until more facts are revealed before passing judgment on Ollie and the Huskies’ program. It should be noted that the school has not even received a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA. When the time comes, proper conclusions will be drawn. Prior to that, however, this breaking story casts more doubt on the future of Ollie’s position as the head coach of the UConn Huskies.