Earlier this week, CBS Sports reported that the NCAA told schools recruiting ESPN’s No. 2 senior Shabazz Muhammad (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman) that they are looking into his amateur status. Most of the elite recruits wind up on the NCAA radar at some point during their senior year and will go to their hometowns and asks questions about their recruitment.
Here’s what was reported in the story:
Muahmmad’s father Ron Holmes acknowledged that the family has, in their mind, pre-existing relationships with financial advisers Benjamin Lincoln and Ken Cavanaugh
Lincoln is the brother of a Gorman assistant Geoff Lincoln and acknowledged that he funded at least two of Muhammad’s unofficial recruiting visits
Cavanaugh acknowledged helping fund Muhammad’s Dream Vision travel team and is the friend of Clayton Williams, Dream Vision’s head coach; Williams is Muhammad’s godfather
Muhammad’s father told CBS "We do not think we've done anything wrong," Holmes said. "But if we have, we'll deal with it."
What does this mean? To me, it means the NCAA is now faced with a decision: define pre-existing relationship in relation to Muhammad. I can’t recall any other examples where a recruit and other parties involved publicly acknowledged financial assistance. Their statements could be seen as forcing the NCAA's hand. The NCAA doesn’t have to guess whether or not Muhammad received financial assistance. Lincoln and Cavanaugh confirmed the assistance. Now, the NCAA has to determine the nature of the relationship.
It’s key to understand that as of now, no violations have been acknowledged and the NCAA has not spoken. There are endless possibilities for what may happen here. The NCAA may agree and determine there is a pre-existing relationship and a non-issue. They could also go the Ryan Boatright route, make them reimburse the money and dock Muhammad games. Worst-case scenario would be a ruling made that says Muhammad’s amateurism was compromised and he is deemed ineligible. At this point, any speculation is just that: speculation.
From the statements by all parties, it’s clear Muhammad and his family are going to cooperate and attack this head on. Behind the scenes, you can expect the NCAA to fully investigate, not comment and likely take a long time in determining Muhammad’s status. We’re not talking about a situation that is going to be resolved anytime soon.
You’re going to hear “pre-existing relationship” a lot in this case. By making the comments now, being up front regarding the relationships and by the willingness to comment on the record for the story, Muhammad’s family’s position is clear. They’re going to fight and the strategy centers around what is in their minds, relationships with financial advisors that were in place prior to Muhammad’s rise up the charts in the Class of 2012.
Still, the recent developments are unlikely to faze any of the schools recruiting Muhammad. He’s on Duke’s campus this weekend for the big game against UNC. Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA, UNLV and Southern Cal can’t speak publicly other than to confirm they are recruiting Muhammad. At this stage, there is no reason for any of them to withdraw their interest.