A two year FBI investigation into bribery, fraud and corruption in college basketball has sent shockwaves around the country since it was announced on Tuesday. Four coaches have been arrested, and a successful head coach has been fired. The PAC-12 has not been spared from this investigation, and the fallout could have implications that affect recruiting for years to come.
So far, two Pac-12 assistant coaches – Emanuel Richardson of Arizona and Tony Bland of USC – have been arrested on charges of bribery and fraud. The two coaches each allegedly accepted bribes from a formerly fired agent named Christian Dawkins. Dawkins was attempting to start his own agency and is accused of trying to funnel money to players through head coaches on the promise that these players would sign with him for their professional careers. Both coaches have been placed on administrative leave and it appears the firing process has begun.
Bland has been an assistant on a rising USC program since 2013. He has played a prominent role in bringing the Trojans back to relevance in the PAC-12. Previous sanctions against the program crippled the team for the better half of the last decade. USC has been slated as a favorite to win the PAC-12 and even contend for the national title going into the 2017-18 season.
The Trojans didn’t have as much success as some other top schools in recruiting, but they were starting to rise in the rankings. The team finished 2017 around the top 30 in most recruiting rankings, but has a top three class in the early portion of 2018 recruiting cycle. It is unknown at this time if Bland’s arrest will cause some players to decommit. At the very least, it would be safe to assume the allegations will hinder their chances of landing other big time recruits in the 2018 class.
Despite the arrests just occurring, Arizona has already started to feel the effects of a major scandal. Richardson has been an assistant coach at Arizona since 2009 and has received praise for his recruiting prowess. The Wildcats have been near the top of recruiting rankings since Sean Miller and Richardson’s arrival. Losing one of his top assistants could hurt Miller, especially in the short run of a year the Wildcats could’ve started as the number one team in the nation.
With that being said, Miller’s job isn’t entirely safe from this scandal. Richardson has been an assistant to him for over a decade, and universities like Louisville have already not shown hesitation in firing an accomplished head coach for involvement in corruption. It is unknown at this time if Miller had any knowledge of Richardson’s involvement, as he has yet to be mentioned in the investigation, but the coming weeks and months should shed further light on the matter. If Sean Miller were to lose his job, one of the hottest recruiting destinations in the last decade would lose relevance overnight.
While the two PAC-12 schools that have been identified in this investigation can lose a lot in the coming weeks, those schools not involved have a lot to gain, namely the Oregon Ducks. On the assumption that the Ducks have kept their noses clean in recruiting over the last few years, they can stand to pick up some new recruits. Oregon’s recent rise has brought the team to the point that it is regularly in competition for some of the top recruits in the country. Oregon’s chances of landing RJ Barrett, the number one recruit in the nation, have already increased since Richardson’s arrest. According to DuckTerritory of 247sports, Barrett has eliminated the Wildcats from his list of schools following the allegations. This only improves Oregon’s chances of landing the Canadian star. Oregon is also in competition for five-star recruit Bol-Bol with Arizona among others, but it is unknown if the investigation will turn him away.
It’s obvious that this FBI investigation will have major implications on recruiting. It’s always been assumed by many that corruption exists in college basketball, and this investigation proves those theories. These arrests have the potential to help improve the shady process that currently is recruiting in college basketball. It is unlikely that it will be phased out completely, but the solution had to start somewhere. It is a shame that the PAC-12’s two biggest threats to win the national title in 2018 are involved in this scandal, but the big players have to fall before change can really occur.