UPDATE: An earlier version of this article speculated that Jahvon Quinerly might be interested in decommitting from Arizona and committing to UVA. That section has been updated to reflect information in the charges against Emanuel “Book” Richardson.
Four assistant coaches at major college basketball programs—Arizona, Oklahoma State, Auburn, and Southern California—have been arrested on charges that they violated federal law by conspiring to pay players and coaches.
The basic gist of the story is that a group of people allegedly tried to steer highly rated recruits toward certain schools, with the understanding that those schools would then steer the recruits back toward the initial group of people once the recruits turned pro. Other defendants include former Adidas and NBA employees, as well as a disgraced sports agent.
Of course, everyone arrested on these charges is innocent until proven guilty. The facts are still mostly unknown and almost entirely untested in court. But if true, this promises to be a potential seismic occurrence in the college sports landscape.
Here’s three ways this could affect Virginia.
Will Louisville get fried by the NCAA?
Although no Louisville coaches are named in the charging documents, the Cardinals are one of the juiciest tidbits at the center of the case.
Reading between lines not so hard: this details how Louisville got commitment from All-American Brian Bowen in June -- for $100K: pic.twitter.com/azXgMKYIl8— Andrew Das (@AndrewDasNYT) September 26, 2017
Brian Bowen is a consensus top-20 prospect who enrolled at Louisville in August. His commitment to Rick Pitino came less than a week after his unofficial visit, and was a huge surprise for folks who follow college basketball recruiting closely.
You’re probably thinking, “Wait. Didn’t Louisville just get in trouble?” Yes. Yes they did. According to the NCAA, Louisville used sex workers to try and lure top prospects to commit, and over the summer the NCAA hit them with four years of vacated wins—potentially including the 2013 NCAA Tournament title.
This is NCAA death penalty-type stuff. When SMU got the harshest set of NCAA penalties ever, it was for paying prospects to commit and then covering it up, at the end of a series of serious violations. Whether anyone at Louisville knew about the payments will be the centerpiece of another NCAA investigation. If they did, Virginia’s annual “rival” for basketball purposes may take a fatal blow.
It’s worth noting that NCAA sanctions are a question independent of the school or the conference deciding Pitino needs to face discipline, up to and including being shown the door.
Does Jahvon Quinerly want to stay at Arizona?
[This section was originally intended to explore whether UVA could get back in the game for one of its top 2018 recruiting targets, New Jersey point guard Jahvon Quinerly. But, um, things done changed.]
Several references in the charges against Arizona assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson suggest that Jahvon Quinerly—and/or people associated with him—could have received $20,000 in payments to commit to Arizona.
“Player-5” was “on campus” at Arizona the weekend after June 20th. Quinerly took his official visit to Arizona on June 24th.
Will morals matter more?
Tony Bennett has a well earned reputation for being one of the nation’s more upright coaches. In fact, his peers named him the third “cleanest” coach in the country, according to a poll published in August. If the entire sport is thrown under a cloud of suspicion, are players going to find that squeaky-clean environment more appealing?
How much of a recruiting pitch is it, that at Virginia you won’t be playing for banners that have to come down in five years?
There are certainly elite players for whom Bennett’s ethos and reputation are already a draw. The 2015 recruiting class showed that. Does it become more popular more widely now? Can it overcome the negative recruiting against Virginia’s offense and style of play?
We won’t know the answers to those questions for a while, if ever. But, speaking at least for myself, there is one thing we do know: Virginia fans are lucky to have a coach that makes us as proud for what happens off the court as we are proud of what happens on it.