Excessive baggage might impact the Auburn Tigers in ways that go beyond traversing through airports.
Last Wednesday, former Tigers assistant Chuck Person finally learned his fate after playing a part in the FBI scandal supposedly meant to shake the sport’s very foundation.
Person was, in part, accused by the government of accepting $91,500 in bribe money for steering players to specific financial institutions. For his role, Person avoided prison time, by pleading guilty to taking bribes as an NCAA coach, but will have to perform 200 hours of community service. He also said of the crime, “I knew it was wrong, but I did it anyway.”
The Tigers, however, might not be as fortunate. At least not relative to how the NCAA views these crimes.
While the United States government painted universities as the victims in this debacle, which was the only way it could go after those involved, the governing body of college sports might not view it in such a favorable, forgiving light.
Furthermore, we already know Auburn is expecting to receive a formal notice of allegations thanks to the school’s victim release statement.
From the release:
“As a result of Person’s misconduct, Auburn expects to receive a formal Notice of Allegations from the NCAA in the coming months. While Auburn believes the NCAA investigation to date has only confirmed that any staff misconduct was isolated to Person – and that his misconduct was committed in a way so as to avoid Auburn’s detection – the University will still have to navigate the enforcement process to an ultimate conclusion, a process that may drag into yet another basketball season.”
The statement did not stop there, as Auburn let it be known it believes proper punishment was already dished out, though the school admits increased punishment is potentially looming:
“Despite the fact that the NCAA has already imposed what Auburn believes are sufficient penalties for those student-athletes affected by Person’s misbehavior, the possibility exists that Auburn’s athletics department and/or men’s basketball team could face further sanction and penalties from the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions.”
Auburn is alleging Person acted alone. A tried a true tactic often used by schools under the watchful eye of authority; though history suggests the NCAA might not care about that even if true, as the sport’s umbrella organization has issued punishments to programs for broader “failure to monitor” violations in the past.
In theory, this can become increasingly troublesome for the Auburn Tigers since the university employees a man with a checkered NCAA past. Bruce Pearl, who has been excellent in bringing the Tigers back to the forefront of college back since undertaking the job, was given a three-year show clause due to his now infamous 2008 summer cookout with then high school junior prospect Aaron Craft. To be clear, Pearl was more so given the penalty for lying to the NCAA than for the literal breaking of bylaws.
Given that context, Auburn could find itself in a tougher spot than other schools in similar positions if the NCAA goes after the university with great vigor. However, the most jaded of those who follow college basketball believe the NCAA will prefer to wander beyond the entire scandal in great haste rather than drag it out in the name of whatever convenient ideal is laying around.
As it usually is, though, what awaits Auburn and Pearl (by extension) might rest on just how deep the NCAA is willing to go with this.
Former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian once famously said, “The NCAA was so mad at Kentucky they gave Cleveland State two more years of probation.” The question Auburn must ask itself ahead of any inquiries is if the governing body looks at their basketball program like Kentucky’s or Cleveland State’s.
The entire FBI investigation, despite seemingly massive in scope, hasn’t yet rocked college basketball in the ways many initially expected when the government first began to target the sport. While a few scapegoats have been snagged by the literal government, schools like Auburn are obviously hoping the governing body of college sports isn’t equipped to handle any of it, and/or is willing to give schools the benefit of the doubt while screaming about a few bad apples.
Editor’s note: This column first appeared on Forbes, but has been republished under the original author’s name at CBBToday thanks to the publisher-contributor agreement.
Joseph Nardone has covered college basketball for nearly a decade at various outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @JosephNardone.
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