Could another excuse to keep Ben Howland and continue the status quo be out? It's certainly possible, according to Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish, who revealed that the NCAA has warned each of the schools recruiting Shabazz Muhammad that the recruit could be ineligible.
Some have argued that Howland can't be fired, no matter how many losses he puts up, how many former players thrive elsewhere or how many exposés on the crumbling program because of the recruiting class that could be on its way to Westwood and to threaten that class would be suicide. It's undoubtedly a possibly tantalizing class, but anyone with two eyes can see that the problems in Howland's program and to a greater degree, the UCLA athletic department, go well beyond a couple recruits.
Now the most important recruit might not even be eligible to "save" the unsavable program. So putting John Wooden's program in the balance of an 18-year-old isn't a good idea? And you say the Earth is round too?
The NCAA has contacted each school recruiting the nation's top-ranked high school basketball prospect, Shabazz Muhammad, and made them aware of financial dealings that could compromise Muhammad's amateur status, multiple sources have told CBSSports.com.
The sources told CBSSports.com that the NCAA is specifically interested in connections between Muhammad's family and financial advisers Benjamin Lincoln and Ken Kavanagh. Lincoln is a North Carolina-based financial planner whose brother, Geoff Lincoln, is an assistant coach for Muhammad's high school team in Las Vegas. Kavanagh is a New York-based financial planner.
Muhammad's father, Ron Holmes, acknowledged to CBSSports.com in multiple phone calls this week that he knows both men and has been questioned by an NCAA investigator about the relationships. Sources told CBSSports.com Lincoln paid for at least two of Muhammad's unofficial visits to college campuses and that Kavanagh has helped fund Muhammad's summer team, the Las Vegas-based Dream Vision Foundation. Holmes, who has hired legal counsel to assist with getting the NCAA inquiry resolved, confirmed both statements as true to CBSSports.com.
For a top basketball recruit to be potentially ineligible isn't exactly revelatory. The basketball recruiting game is filled with shady people and the one-and-done rule has only made things worse as kids who have no business being in school have to sit through a semester and not collect the paychecks they believe they they should be getting. This is the reality of modern day college basketball.
Now, we're not going to jump ahead and say that Muhammad, his parents or Lincoln are guilty of breaking NCAA rules. They claim to have been friends long before Muhammad was a recruit and that any affiliation between Lincoln and Muhammad is as a friend, not a financial planner. That could be possible. Right now we have no way of knowing. This could be much ado about nothing and Muhammad might be welcomed in Westwood with open arms just as he would at the other schools he is considering.
But to look at this as just a possible problem for Mohammad and the UCLA recruiting class would be foolish, and that is putting it kindly. This is just an example of why you don't put your program on the shoulders of one 18-year-old kid. If it is not NCAA ineligibility then it is an injury or an arrest or just simple underperforming. There's a list of reasons why healthy programs do not rest on one kid, no matter how good he may be.
UCLA and Ben Howland's program are not in trouble because Mohammad could possibly be ineligible. UCLA is in trouble because of what was outlined in the Sports Illustrated piece, where George Dohrmann exposed a program that has no respect for its leader. It's a program that has no respect for anyone involved with it. It's a program that lacks discipline. All of those things are not things you cant get back because when they are gone, they're gone until you start from scratch. UCLA's basketball program lacks a future.
When you have a program like UCLA's, one recruiting class is not going to change things. One player is not going to change things either, even if that player is Shabazz Muhammad. And there is no way in hell he is changing things if he is ineligible.