LEXINGTON, KY. — Never mind that thinly sourced gossip in the Chicago Sun-Times.
Never mind Kentucky’s legal eagles with their threats that really, seriously, they might have to think about suing.
For big-time college athletics, the real head-snapper happened two weeks back.
On July 20, Rachel Newman-Baker, Director of Agent, Gambling and Amateurism Activities for the NCAA, told Noah Trister of the Associated Press:
“I think people are kind of tired of sitting around and watching some of these abuses, and so I think you’re starting to see that there’s more and more people that are willing to talk.
“I do think we have been able in the last couple years to develop much stronger information related to potential violations. . . . . People understand that something will be done with that information, and they feel comfortable sharing it.”
Right now, there must be a lot of sharing going on.
Friday, ESPN reported the NCAA has broadened its probe into the Tennessee football program. Tennessee athletics director Mike Hamilton even admitted he would not be surprised if the school received a letter of inquiry from the NCAA.
Over at West Virginia, the school received a notice of allegations from the NCAA regarding suspicious activity in its football program, dating to when Rich Rodriguez was head coach.
That’s the same Rich Rodriguez who will be accompanying Michigan officials when they go before the NCAA on Aug. 14, to answer questions about improper activity in the Wolverines football program.
All this, of course, dovetails nicely with the fact that Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Clemson all have had NCAA investigators poking around their campuses.
Just this past week, Kansas University confirmed that its star basketball signee, guard Josh Selby, has had his eligibility status put on hold while the NCAA asks agent-related questions. One question: How was it Selby drove a Mercedes-Benz to high school.
Nor is Selby the only top-flight freshman-to-be eligibility issue. Memphis’ Will Barton has had his debut put on hold while the NCAA snoops around his prep school academic progress. At UK, Enes Kanter is waiting to hear what the NCAA thinks about his relationship with a professional team in Turkey.
You might remember that Kentucky went through a similar situation last season with John Wall. He had to sit out a pair of games and give $800 to a charity for allowing certified agent Brian Clifton, his AAU coach, to pay some of Wall’s expenses.
But as Gary Parrish of CBS Sports pointed out Friday, “And can you imagine how the NCAA must’ve felt when it recognized John Wall was connected to a former certified agent and cleared him anyway only to watch the same former certified agent help secure a shoe deal for Wall almost immediately after the eventual No. 1 pick announced his decision to turn pro?”
It has become increasingly clear that the NCAA was embarrassed by what it found in the Southern Cal Reggie Bush case. Since slapping the Trojans with major sanctions, it has turned up the heat. Late Friday, word came that several sports at Miami (Fla.) are under investigation for abusing NCAA texting rules.
To do all this, the NCAA has to be getting some help. People are opening up.
The explosion of media outlets, thanks to the Internet, means there are that many more opportunities for those accusations to turn from a whisper into a scream.
Example, the allegations gossip printed by the Chicago Sun-Times.
“You don’t necessarily always believe the specifics,” Rivals’ Jerry Meyer told Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader on Friday. “But in general (he chuckled), I would assume, and I think most people do assume, cheating is very prevalent.”
Prevalent enough to attract the NCAA’s attention.