November 9th and the official reopening of Old Pauley Under Glass is right around the corner, but still no word on two of the biggest question marks surrounding this year's UCLA Bruin squad: The eligibility of of star freshmenShabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson. Frustration is understandably beginning to set in given that the NCAA has had all summer now to investigate any potential impropriety and hasn't been able to come to a conclusion.
That frustration has led certain corners to suggest that should the NCAA not clear both players before the start of the season, that they should receive some sort of waiver that allows them to play until the investigation has reached a conclusion. It's a nice idea, but ultimately a naive one given how the organization has handled things in the past. The sticky situation is how to handle a team that uses certain players that are ultimately ruled ineligible. Waiver or not, the fact would remain that we would have presumably won games and advanced our standing with an ineligible player. How the NCAA justifies such a contradiction when others have been punished for this offense makes this idea a non-starter.
Either way, more than ever, UCLA and all other schools will want to avoid running afoul of the rules:
The NCAA is demanding everyone in college sports play by the same book.
Those who deviate from it and flout the rules will soon be paying a steeper price.
On Tuesday, the NCAA's board of directors passed a package of sweeping changes that will hold coaches more accountable for rule-breaking offenses and threaten rogue programs with longer postseason bans and fines that could cost millions of dollars.
It's great that the NCAA wants to give itself more tools to enforce its rules, but the problem with the NCAA hasn't necessarily been the punishments they've doled out, but the methods by which they conduct (or don't conduct) their investigations. The only reason the NCAA didn't take years to bring the hammer down on Penn State is because they weren't the ones doing the investigation.
Anyway, while we wait in limbo for the Chianti-esque NCAA to do their jobs, CBS has pegged the Bruins at #9. They do a great job summarizing the question marks surrounding this team, but a quote from an opposing coach really drives it home:
"UCLA could win a national championship or miss the NCAA tournament. I don't think either outcome would surprise me."
No matter what we think of the botched handling of the Old Pauley Under Glass project, the fact is that this gives the program momentum, even if temporary, that we can't afford to squander. Should Mr. Opposing Coach's latter outcome come to pass, there is simply no way Howland can survive.
As a reminder of what Howland's teams used to be and what they used to stand for, the ultimate Ben Ball Warrior,Arron Afflalo, has put together a short documentary of one of his offseason days, with a lot of familiar faces and places. It's a MUST WATCH:
It illustrates the kind of attitude that Howland built his best teams on, and the kind of player that Howland must recruit once again.
"Your expectations always exceed outside expectations. I feel like you just can't stop working, can't stop getting better, because I'll be a failure in my eyes before I'm a failure in someone else's eyes." -- Arron Afflalo
One thing is for sure. No matter what the questions are surrounding this program, we will start getting answers in 10 days.