It's a waiting game now with no end in sight in FBI college basketball probe | Tim Sullivan
We know the feds are invested in exposing corruption in college basketball. What we don’t yet know is their ultimate target, their projected timetable or the sheer scale of their investigation.
Nearly 20 weeks since the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced the arrest of 10 individuals representing the “dark underbelly of college basketball” and warned uncharged perpetrators to come forward rather than be found out, the probe has reentered stealth mode.
Friday's court filings, in which attorneys for three defendants seek to suppress certain evidence obtained through cell phones and wiretaps, are a reminder that the case is continuing and an indication of its agonizingly incremental progress. Though the University of Louisville has fired basketball coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich, no one affiliated with the school has been charged with a crime during the expanding investigation.
Already awaiting one set of NCAA sanctions over unrelated infractions, U of L has cleaned house without a clear signal concerning the extent of its exposure in the case surrounding the recruitment of Brian Bowen. Though that housecleaning might mitigate future penalties, the lack of clarity certainly complicates the search for a new men's basketball coach.
Pitino said the school acted in haste instead of waiting on the facts to become clear. And though that argument has some merit, it was probably unreasonable to expect U of L’s patience to outlast an open-ended investigation in the face of an FBI affidavit alleging coaching staff culpability. Even now, almost four months since Pitino was fired, the NCAA enforcement staff is still awaiting its cue to get actively involved.
As excruciating as the Andre McGee/Katina Powell experience has been for U of L fans, it is at least almost over, with an appeals decision due any day. The Bowen case, meanwhile, is a hovering cloud with no place to go. The infractions are so obvious that they have already caused convulsive change within Cardinal athletics, yet the case remains beyond the NCAA’s jurisdiction and its ability to bring closure.
Presumably, the possibility of prison time has loosened some of the lips of those caught on camera and/or through FBI wiretaps. Presumably, some of the coaches, shoe company executives and assorted grifters who have been implicated are trading information for lesser pleas. If college basketball is as dirty as some suppose, the ability of low-level crooks to rat out bigger players may be limited only by investigators’ interest in following fresh leads.
This is going to take some time to sort out. In October, the Los Angeles Times quoted a former “high-major head coach” anticipating the investigation would produce 40 to 50 job openings for head and assistant coaches by the spring. To date, the pace of change has been much more deliberate.
With court dates being scheduled for February 2019 and at least some of the cases complicated by the alleged misappropriation of funds by an undercover FBI agent, the possibility of a speedy resolution now appears to be remote.
With attorneys for three defendants seeking dismissal on grounds the alleged bribery scheme was designed to aid rather than injure, a court may have to evaluate whether the U.S. Attorney has identified crimes worth prosecuting or is simply acting as a more muscular arm of NCAA enforcement.
This, too, will take time to unravel.
With no end in sight, it's hard to know where we're headed or when we might get there.
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Here follow the week's top 10 sports quotes, most of them worth the wait:
10. Jordan Spieth, professional golfer, on former Dallas quarterback Tony Romo’s game: "His short game is fantastic. He's walking in putts from 15 feet at home. I mean, walking them in almost every hole. It's really impressive. ...
"But he's a guy that when he gets kind of a feeling, he sees a couple shots — he believes it like this. And then he can hit a hundred of them in a row. His muscle memory, his hand-eye coordination, is really special." (PGATour.com)
9. Tim Watts, member of Australian parliament, on NBA All-Star selections: “I rise today to express my outrage at the exclusion of Australian Ben Simmons from this year’s NBA All-Star game. ... The fact compatriot Joe Ingles has also been left out of the 3-point competition despite sitting third in the league in 3-point percentages makes me think there’s some kind of anti-Australian conspiracy going on at league head office at the moment.
"If you thought that Australia was angry about the Simpsons vs. Australia TV episode, Yanks, you ain’t seen nothing yet.” (Parliamentary address)
8. Kim Ye-jin, South Korean speed skater, on training with North Korea's Jong Kwang-bom: "We had general conversations. Jong called me ugly, so I told him back, 'Did you look in the mirror?'" (Yonhap News Agency)
7. Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations, on Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo: "He's special. A man that can handle the basketball like he can and be a great — he's probably the greatest athlete we have in the league today. And then his understanding, his basketball IQ is off the chart. He not only can score for himself, but also he can pass that basketball like a point guard. So when you think about all the skills that he has, block shots, rebound, can put the ball on the floor, can score, can assist, can make the pass. We've never had anybody in the league like him. And also too, he's like the No. 1 — he's right up with LeBron, with KD and Steph (Curry) as the entertainer. He's an entertainer so people will go see him." (ESPN)
(Author’s note: Johnson’s comments prompted a $50,000 “tampering” fine from the NBA.)
6. Jason Kelce, Philadelphia Eagles center, on winning the Super Bowl: "This entire organization was a bunch of driven men to accomplish something. We were a bunch of underdogs. And you know what an underdog is? It's a hungry dog. (Offensive line coach) Jeff Stoutland has had this in our building for five years. It's a quote in the O-line room that has stood on the wall for the last five years: Hungry dogs run faster. And that's this team. Bottom line is, we wanted it more." (Speech)
5. Pita Taufatofua, bare-chested Tongan flag bearer, on the opening ceremonies for the Olympic Winter Games: “I won’t freeze. I am from Tonga. We sailed across the Pacific. This is nothing.” (Olympic news service)
4. Tony Dungy, former NFL coach, on New England assistant coach Josh McDaniels reneging on joining Indianapolis Colts: “You make those decisions before you say I Do. Don’t get married start a family then say I changed my mind. He didn’t sign the contract but he said I Do. ... That is common decency and integrity. You don’t do that to the families of your peers.” (@TonyDungy on Twitter)
3. Brevin White, high school quarterback, on passing up a chance to sign with Alabama to play at Princeton: “It’s not the easiest route to go where you look in the stands at all these big colleges and you see 100,000 fans. ‘Wow, it’d be cool to run out of the tunnel in front of that and play in front of those crowds and you’re getting your school paid for.’ You get a nice place to live. All of those things are nice. At the end of the day, there’s a greater payoff from Princeton and all of the Ivies if you apply yourself and work hard because they do offer a once-in-a-lifetime experience, just in a different way than the bigger universities." (Sports Illustrated)
2. Ken Hitchcock, Dallas Stars coach, on Chicago Blackhawks' coach Joel Quenneville: "He's had his day in the sun. He's a great coach but you can't feel for anybody. Those are the things you can do in the summer, when you get together, you talk to a guy on the phone, when he's facing personal adversity. But during competition you're in your own group and you hope the other group fails like crazy." (ESPN)
1. Nick Foles, Super Bowl MVP, on failure: “I’m not perfect. I’m not Superman. I might be in the NFL. I might have just won a Super Bowl, but, hey, we still have daily struggles. I still have daily struggles. And that’s where my faith comes in, that’s where my family comes in.
“I think when you look at a struggle in your life, just know that’s just an opportunity for your character to grow. And that’s just been the message. Simple. If something’s going on in your life and you're struggling, embrace it. Because you’re growing.” (News conference)