AJ Green, Marcell Dareus Targeted in NCAA Investigation: A Closer Look
In June, the storyline was cataclysmic conference realignment. Come July, the NCAA's investigative powers have taken center stage.
Yes, the organization most considered too toothless and bureaucratic to ever mount a serious effort against the big-money schools has done just that.
In the past week, five elite schools have confirmed that the NCAA has been by to investigate allegations that one of its players engaged in behavior that compromised his status as a student-athlete.
What players are involved? How are they connected, if at all? Click through and find out more.
The Accused: UNC DT Marvin Austin
According to reports, North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin attended a party in South Beach over Memorial Day weekend.
Austin tweeted from the event that "I live In club LIV so I get the tenant rate...bottles comin like its a giveaway," the lyrics to a song by rapper Rick Ross. Club Liv is evidently a club in Miami.
Since that time, his Twitter account has been shut down (and had been a pretty interesting read prior to its termination). The precedent would seem to hold that more than his social networking capabilities would be at stake.
Austin was targeted by NCAA investigators for questioning. From that line of questioning, the investigation has taken off.
South Carolina TE Weslye Saunders
South Carolina TE Weslye Saunders is accused of having accompanied Austin on that trip and receiving improper benefits like free airfare and accommodations.
Ever the acid wit, Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier promised full compliance, saying his office "[wasn't] going to look the other way like possibly Southern California did," alluding to the Reggie Bush scandal that cost USC 30 scholarships and two years of bowl eligibility.
Alabama DT Marcell Dareus
Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus is the first player to actually be declared ineligible. Coach Nick Saban immediately contested the Tuscaloosa News report while at the SEC Media Days.
As with any player declared ineligible, Dareus's suspension is subject to appeal. Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant appealed his suspension multiple times, but was ultimately turned down by the NCAA and had to sit out most of Oklahoma State's season last year.
Dareus was expected to be the anchor of Alabama's rebuilding 2010 defense, which, should the suspension stick, will now return exactly two players with more than a game of experience.
Florida OL Maurkice Pouncey
Allegations that Florida guard Maurkice Pouncey accepted $100,000 from an agent, if true, could cause Florida to vacate their Sugar Bowl win over Cincinnati.
However, Meyer did concede that an internal investigation had been ongoing for some time. Is there smoke? Undoubtedly.
Georgia WR AJ Green
With all due respect to Dareus and the rest, the biggest name in the investigation dropped late last night.
The NCAA is now including Georgia, and potentially, wide receiver A.J. Green, in its ongoing investigation of players making illegal contact with agents or compromising their amateur status while still in college.
Investigators are allegedly trying to determine whether Green was at the party with Austin and Saunders.
Green, for his part, denied attending the party to Sports Illustrated, saying he was home in South Carolina for Memorial Day.
He's a consensus pick as the top returning wide receiver in the SEC and possibly the country. Any doubt of his eligibility could send Georgia, already reeling from a high-profile spring QB transfer and the resignation of its athletic director, into a tailspin.
What To Make Of It?
The NCAA hasn't been idle about punishing players for illegal contact with agents (see the Dez Bryant example), but they've not taken such a proactive approach as this one in the modern era.
I was hoping the answer rested with new NCAA president Mark Emmert—he's made some noise about one-and-done players in college basketball—but he won't take over until November 1.
For now, Jim Isch, the former NCAA senior VP for administration and finance, is acting as interim president, and his record doesn't suggest a tyrannical dislike for agent/player contact (aside from the usual).
Besides, the NCAA is far too mercurial an organization to be seized into action by one man. This seems like a logical outgrowth of the USC investigation. where the NCAA, derided as toothless, is showing it can launch investigations practically without provocation. I'd say call it the Bush Push, but I think that's taken.
Are There More Players Involved?
ESPN's Chris Mortensen is reporting that as many as 25 NFL prospects from 10 SEC schools were at this party alone.
A major takedown of talent in the premier conference might not be enough to level the playing field totally, but if enough players get chipped off, we could see something approaching parity.