The fallout from the this week’s FBI crackdown on shady college basketball recruiting tactics is only just beginning. Several college coaches, basketball-adjacent businessmen, and Adidas employees were charged with fraud and bribery on Monday, and the hammer has yet to truly drop on many of the programs implicated in the scandal. Louisville coach Rick Pitino was the first to go, and he probably won’t be the last.
Meanwhile, Auburn has also been burned by the scandal. Since Bruce Pearl became the program’s head coach in 2014, the Tigers have enjoyed some of their best recruiting classes in school history. Pearl—who had been implicated in two separate recruiting scandals before he even got to Auburn—signed two five-star recruits—Mustapha Heron and Austin Wiley) in 2016—and his only 2018 recruit was E.J. Montgomery, another five-star player.
This morning, Montgomery formally decommited to the program, less than a week after making his commitment and one day after Auburn assistant coach Chuck Person was charged on six counts for allegedly accepting a series of bribes. Person faces up to 80 years in federal prison if he doesn’t cooperate with the FBI’s investigation, and since Pitino, a higher profile coach than Pearl, has already been fired, it sure doesn’t seem like Pearl will weather this particular storm.
Heron and Wiley’s time at Auburn might also be up in the air now. Heron was already considering transferring at the conclusion of last season, a decision which might be much easier now, and according to the Montgomery Advertiser, the player at the center of the charges against Person is Wiley. NCAA mechanics are arcane and not player-friendly at all, but it’s not hard to see a scenario where Auburn loses all three of their five-star recruits along with the man who brought them to town.
Pearl hasn’t been directly implicated yet, but as a higher-up told Yahoo’s Pete Thamel, the thread’s just starting to unravel:
“The only thing that’s amazing is that it has taken so long for something like this to happen,” said an athletic director at a Power Five school, who asked to remain anonymous. “I do think that this is really the beginning of the expose, and it’s something that will consume college athletics for two or three years.”