And the plot thickens.
The family of Shabazz Muhammad released a statement to the LA Times today which contains several comments which seem to contradict the statements made recently by the NCAA. Here is Muhammad's family's release in its entirety (bold text is mine):
Shabazz's family is very distressed by the NCAA's recent decision and the manner in which it was announced. Shabazz and his family have been cooperating with the NCAA for well over a year. Earlier this year, the NCAA asked Shabazz and his family not to reveal to each other or to the press facts related to the NCAA investigation. Despite the many untrue rumors which were circulating on the Internet, Shabazz and his family dutifully did what they were told. In order to entice Shabazz's family and others to cooperate, the NCAA repeatedly gave assurances that it would keep details of the investigation strictly confidential. As recently as November 2012, the NCAA promised that it would not issue a Press Release.
Last Friday, the NCAA released a Press Release which not only was wrong in its conclusions but which also inaccurately portrayed the investigation process in this case. For over a year, the NCAA has known all of the relevant facts related to its ruling last Friday. Prior to the unofficial visits in question, Ron Holmes and Benjamin Lincoln received approval from NCAA (through its member universities) for Mr. Lincoln (who has had a continuous close friendship with Shabazz's family since 2007) to pay for airline tickets and hotel rooms. In 2010, Mr. Holmes openly and honestly revealed to the NCAA the source of the payments on the NCAA's compliance form. Shabazz's family is now faced with the situation where they are concerned that any attempt to tell more of their side of the story will result in further punitive action, as Shabazz is still under the mercy of the NCAA. Shabazz and his family will continue to honestly cooperate with the NCAA in the hopes that Shabazz soon will be allowed to play basketball at UCLA.
Some interesting points. First is that the NCAA asked the Muhammad family not to speak to the press or to each other regarding the investigation. Surely this was an effort by the NCAA to control the investigation and prevent leaks or other info which might prospectively contradict its findings. This approach works if you trust the judging body to give you a fair shake. It also leaves you at their mercy and makes you play catch up if they come out with results that are different from what you expect. It sounds like Shabzz's family participated ingood faith, but they are clearly unhappy now that they did so.
Next up is the statement that the family received NCAA approval for the actions which they allege are the source of Shabazz's suspension. This is pretty interesting to me. First, I don't know if Duke or UNC are able to speak for the NCAA, and whether their assurance that the trips were legal counts for real. If not, did those two institutions willfully sabotage Shabazz, knowing he was a U.C.L.A. commit all along? Did Shabazz's family do its due diligence to ensure that the promises of Duke and UNC carried any real weight? I mean, if you take the family's statement at face value, then how can the NCAA then penalize Shabazz for those visits? The fact that the NCAA did penalize him means that something here doesn't add up, and it will be interesting to learn what the real truth is regarding this assertion.
The last point I bolded concerns me the most, and I think you can look at it two ways. One, you can look at the family playing the martyr card as an effort to shame the NCAA from any further penalties and wants to try this case in public. On the other hand, you can view this as a petty and entitled complaint from someone who has no standing to do so, and Shabazz's father, Ron Holmes, may be digging a bigger grave for his son. Whichever way it works out, the family clearly did not play the contrition and respect card with the NCAA, even though that approach seemed to work for Kyle Anderson and his family. It's hard to know if this statement will have any effect on further actions by the NCAA, but in my experience, the NCAA likes getting its ass kissed. It let Penn State and Ohio State off the hook when they fell on their swords (for lesser offenses than what probably really occurred) and many believe that *$c got hit harder because of their petulant and arrogant opposition to the NCAA's investigation and findings. It's not always a good idea to taunt the executioner when he can choose between fast and painless methods of punishment or long slow steady ways of making you suffer. The NCAA does not like to be lectured by its underlings, so this may not play well for Shabazz.
On a side note, It is still unclear whether U.C.L.A. will appeal the results that the NCAA announced last Friday or simply skip ahead to any penalties, hoping that light penalties and avoiding the extra time that an appeal would take is the faster route to Shabazz taking the court for the Bruins. Our inept AD Dan Guerrero on Friday had no decision on which course the University would pursue, although it seems reasonable that a proactive AD would have been prepared for any and all possibilities. Apparently a weekend of reflecting on his most immediately pressing matter has not resulted in any further action, either.
Stay tuned, Bruins...