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Points in the Paint: Is the NCAA about to drop the hammer on SEC rivals?

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The Oklahoma State decision is bound to leave a few SEC coaches with sleepless nights.

NCAA Basketball: Louisiana State at Auburn Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

After two years, the NCAA finally got around to completing its disciplining in the first of 12 schools implicated by the Adidas/Nike federal investigations and criminal cases — Oklahoma State.

Using the COI’s disciplinary grid that prescribes an acceptable range of penalties for infractions, the NCAA’s smite-hammer fell like an avenging thunder god:

  • Post-season ban,
  • A 10-year show cause for convicted assistant Lamont Evans
  • Substantial scholarship cuts
  • three-years of probation.

Keep in mind, this was just one major infraction cited: Kansas alone has been pegged with five.

And bear in mind the NCAA indicated that they let Oklahoma State off easy, since there was no finding that the institution lacked control, nor that the Cowboys benefited from or even knew about Evans scheme to steer athletes to OSU, in concert with the shoe companies. The message was: you hire the bad apples, you’re getting tossed in the bin too.

This bodes particularly poorly for schools like NC State (hi, Mark Gottfried!), Louisville, and Kansas — institutions where it is alleged that the programs did have knowledge of, benefited from, or were complicit in the steering schemes.

We know that LSU’s Will Wade has been under investigation, but to-date remains unindicted (if not an unindicted co-conspirator.) But, it’s going to be really hard for the NCAA to poo-poo away those damning audiotapes that have become a laughable mantra of corruption in the sport.

Strong-ass offer, indeed.

And, most of all, it bodes really poorly for Auburn.

Auburn to-date has not released its notice of allegations; they won’t even confirm or deny receiving them — lawlessly asserting that such records are protected from the state’s open records and sunshine laws. Despite multiple FOIA attempts, we simply don’t know how bad it is, nor how Auburn has responded.

But, taken at face value, the similarities between its case and Oklahoma State are striking:

Auburn had an assistant coach (Chuck Person) arrested for, more or less, doing the same thing Evans was caught doing. So did Arizona (Book Richardson). So did USC (Tony Bland). So if the NCAA follows the precedent it just set — and who knows if it will? But if it does — then Auburn, USC and Arizona, at the very least, can expect postseason bans. And, again, don’t forget that Kansas is facing five Level I violations compared to Oklahoma State’s one. And that LSU’s coach was on a wiretap talking about a “strong-ass offer” made in violation of NCAA rules. And that Louisville was on probation when it had an assistant knowingly participate in a pay-for-play scheme involving former five-star prospect Brian Bowen.

Nor are LSU and Auburn alone. Despite being the conference’s most high-profile targets, just three months ago, the NCAA added South Carolina hoops to the naughty list of Shoegate casualties — the Gamecocks had also hired Lamont Evans.

What the SEC will look like over the next 18-24 months is apt to be very different than it is today. But, despite being in the middle of federal investigations and despite having coaches sentenced for fraud, both Auburn and LSU kept on chugging right along with Bruce Pearl and Will Wade. It worked: both teams won championships doing so — LSU won the SEC regular season crown and made the Sweet 16; Auburn won the SEC tournament and made the Final Four.

Until the hammer drops on the two dirtiest programs in the conference, the message remains very much that unrepentant, unsanctioned cheating pays.

Don’t think that the NCAA isn’t aware of this either.