The Bruins of UCLA thought that they caught lightning in a bottle when they received the commitment of Shabazz Muhammad this passed April. Muhammad was the cornerstone of one of the best recruiting classes in the country prior to this season. Unfortunately for Bruins fans, all of the news surrounding Muhammad since then has been negative. Amid swirling accusations of improper benefits as well as doubts from the NCAA about his amateurism, Shabazz Muhammad’s contributions to this year’s UCLA could be drastically lower than originally expected. It was announced by the NCAA on Friday, November 9th that Muhammad was ruled ineligible to play in UCLA’s season opener against the Fighting Larry Birds of Indiana State (Sycamores).
The details in this case are still being gathered thus far, but one thing for certain is that it does not look good at this point. As we all know, the NCAA is second to none when it comes to inconsistency. Therefore it truly is impossible to gauge where their investigation stands or what the final verdict will be. Let us take a moment to examine the facts. Shabazz DID accept impermissible benefits in the form of finances for unofficial recruiting visits. Originally Ron Holmes (father) and Ben Lincoln (family friend since 2007) sought the approval of the NCAA for Lincoln to purchase airline tickets and hotel rooms for Muhammad recruitment visits. Lincoln was indeed given authorization to provide these funds, yet the NCAA appears to have uncovered other benefits received by Muhammad, possibly from Ken Kavanagh who provided funds to Muhammad’s former AAU team, Dream Vision. On July 31st of this year the NCAA staff requested certain documents to determine the eligibility of Muhammad but did not receive most of these documents until September 25th, October 10th, and most recently November 1st. It would appear that the documents received by the NCAA did not help the UCLA freshman’s case.
No timetable has been offered by the NCAA to shed light on when they will come to a decision regarding Muhammad’s eligibility. While it seems unlikely that he will be cleared in the near future, I feel confident that Muhammad will indeed be able to suit up for the Bruins at some point this season. The family released a statement to the Los Angeles Times today stating that, “Shabazz and his family have been cooperating with the NCAA for well over a year.” The clear cooperation by the family has not come to fruition yet. Because the case is ongoing most people in the know are keeping their information close to the chest. A source to the Los Angeles Times tells them that more information in regards to Muhammad’s status could be released this week.
Due to the apparent lack of complete facts it is unlikely that the NCAA will be able to comprise a list of every violation commited. Because of the NCAA’s lax policies regarding eligibility Muhammad could be forced to miss 10 games before a decision is made. If the previously described scenario occurs it will be likely that Muhammad is either cleared after the first 10 contests or ruled permenantly ineligible. In truth it does not matter to NBA scouts whether or not UCLA’s prized recruit ever steps on the floor for competition. He will be one of the first few players selected based on potential alone. Until a decision is made it will be interesting to see how this fiasco unravels. Something tells me we may still be in the dark about some of Muhammad’s recruitment, but only time will tell if that gut feeling has any credibility.
Nick Rapier can be reached on Twitter @chroNickTres