Given the NCAA’s love-hate relationship with Kentucky head basketball coach John Calipari, it probably shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that college sports’ governing body is now looking into his most prized recruit.
According to the New York Times, the NCAA dispatched two enforcement staff members to Massachusetts this week to snoop around and look into the nation’s top high school basketball player, Nerlens Noels. The investigators, Cindi Merrill and Frank Smith, reportedly traveled down to Everett High School on Tuesday to meet with school officials down there as part of their reconnaissance mission.
Noel spent his freshman and sophomore years at Everett before transferring to Tilton School – a boarding school he has attended for the last two years.
As noted by the Times:
The Everett High School principal, Louis Baldi, said the meeting lasted an hour and 15 minutes and centered on “concerns we had as adults” for Noel…
A person who has been briefed on the N.C.A.A.’s inquiry said the topics officials were planning on inquiring about included Noel’s relationship with Chris Driscoll, a former Providence assistant who is close to Noel. Driscoll was barred this year from campus at the Tilton School, the New Hampshire boarding school where Noel has spent the past two years and is completing his final year of high school.
Tilton officials expressed concern earlier this year that Driscoll did not have Noel’s best interests at heart. Driscoll has denied the allegation, and he did not return a call seeking comment.
N.C.A.A. officials also planned to find out about Noel’s relationship with Errol Randolph, a former substitute teacher at Everett High School who is another of Noel’s advisers, according to the person briefed on the inquiry.
That last bit is probably the most intriguing piece of information in the whole article. Apparently, Randolph had a connection on his LinkedIn page to basketball agent Andy Miller's ASM Sports website. When pressed about why the link was there, Randolph offered up a standard it was nothing denial; of course, there also wasn’t much else he could do at this point besides offer that sort of response.
Generally speaking, people don’t accidentally post links to stuff on LinkedIn. If there was a reference to the agency there, it was there for a reason. Now, whether that reason was in any way related to Noel is obviously a completely different question.
For what it’s worth, Randolph has taken the link down.
The final interesting bit from the Times piece was this:
N.C.A.A. officials also planned to inquire about Noel’s finances, according to the person briefed on the inquiry. He flew on unofficial visits this year to Kentucky and Louisville that were not paid for by the universities.
All of the other stuff that the NCAA is looking into can be very difficult to prove, even if there is wrongdoing there. Good luck tying Noel to some substitute teacher/advisor who may or may not have a connection to a sports agency. Same goes for Driscoll and his ties to Noel.
A direct money link, though, if one exists, would theoretically be much easier to prove.
So far, it’s difficult to really take this situation seriously. The NCAA is looking into a highly sought-after Kentucky recruit because that’s what the NCAA does; however, folks really shouldn’t read too much into it until there is actually something to read into.