--Longtime good friend of the JCCW Will Collier has been accused by some of taking a little too much relish in the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune suffered by the Tide, and certainly he has more of a taste for delicious, delicious 'Bama-related dirt than yours truly. But there are times when this is a very good attribute for a blogger to have, because it means Will's willing to read and decipher the NCAA's "Preliminary Letter of inquiry"/Notice of allegations"--available here--sent last May in the wake of 2007's textbookgate. Money grafs from Will:
Among other things, the mildly-redacted PLOI charges UAT with Failure To Monitor (page 6), which is basically the second most serious charge in the NCAA rulebook, behind the dreaded Failure Of Institutional Control.Will points out one of the indications of that potential seriousness: the Tide were denied "summary disposition," or as Will put it in an e-mail (when I asked) a kind of "plea bargain." (More summary dispositions here.) The lead paragraph on page 3 of the letter states:
Contrary to everything you've read in the media to date, the NCAA considers this is a major violations case (page 4).
As indicated in my November 20, 2007 letter, the Committee on Infractions reviews information concerning major possible violations either through the summary disposition process or an in-person hearing. It is my understanding that the enforcement staff has discussed the possibility of processing the case through the summary disposition process and that currently this process does not appear appropriate.Look, I don't know all that much about this sort of thing. So take anything I say here with a grain of salt. But when the NCAA has both the "work with the offenders to compromise on the investigation and a punishment" option or the "No thanks, we'll decide what we want to do you with you" option, and they choose option B, that can't be good, can it? As Cecil Hurt reported today, the issue resulted in a meeting with the NCAA in late February. It'll be "several weeks" at least until we find out the results of that meeting.
It's hard for me to imagine this will wind up doing anything worse than the Tide than the loss of a scholarship or two: as foreboding as "Failure to Monitor" sounds, it's a textbook program. Your guess is as good as mine whether even lost scholarships are an option for the NCAA, and Chris Low has already opined that the meeting won't result in any additional punishments at all. (In the interests of equal time, you should probably also read OTS's understandable "tempest in a teapot" take at RBR). But: even a couple of lost schollies equal a couple more good players that won't go to Alabama, and might instead go to Auburn. (Not to mention, of course, that scraping up enough scholarships to go around is difficult enough in Tuscaloosa these days.) It's not a MASSIVE deal, but it's certainly worth keeping an eye on.
--Hey, Auburn's Junior Day is this weekend! I can't believe I'm sort of mildly intrigued by it, though I wish I was less intrigued for both the usual recruiting-makes-me-want-to-wash-with-antibacterial-soap reasons and the fact of this quote from the (free) AUUndercover article:
“We didn’t start sending out the invitations until last Wednesday, so we’re behind on that," said Fountain, who moved from Iowa State to Auburn on Feb. 16. "But I think when all is said and done we’ll have a really good crowd here. We actually invited 90 players, which may have been too many. We’re just hitting it running and hope to make it a good day for these guys.”Emphasis mine, because while I'm sure everything will be super in the end, you'd still rather your brand new administrative guy not admit to two possible imperfections in the planning of the staff's first Junior Day. I guess.
Charles Goldberg has a list of potential attendees, and I'm sure I'm not alone in hoping Vigor's Tremendous Campbell-Scott commits before the weekend is out.
--If you've read my hoops coverage for any length of time you know how keen I am on statistical measures as an indicator of team quality. I'll update those for you for the Auburn men: Pomeroy now has them 59th and rising; Gasaway's league-play efficiency margin ranks them fourth in the SEC, but now only one tenth of a point behind Florida and Kentucky--taking current play into account, you could make an argument that Auburn is currently the SEC's second-best team; Kyle Whelliston's delightfully quirky BBState rankings spit Auburn out at 68th and rising; and the less widely followed adjusted scoring margin metric ($) used by Joe Lunardi is perhaps kindest of all, calling Auburn the 49th-best team in the country. (Yes, even though it's at ESPN, ASM seems kind of overlooked; I never see basketball writers or bloggers refer to it unless they're griping about it or they're Lunardi himself. Weird.)
The point: all of these systems place Auburn's 2008-2009 performance squarely amongst various other major-conference NCAA bubble teams (Michigan, Maryland, Providence, Wisconsin, etc.). Given that Auburn is playing much, much better basketball now than in December or January, it's fair to say they're currently an NCAA Tournament quality team. It's just too bad they didn't prove it when they had the chance to against Dayton, Florida, Mercer, Vandy, etc. Now: three games in Tampa.
(One other quick note about Auburn's RPI, as touched on yesterday: what used to be a simple formula has gotten a couple of tweaks to it over the years, and the latest one mercilessly punishes teams who lose at home. Thus is Kentucky dropped all the way to 78th after losing yet another home game. What does this mean for Auburn? Those 300-plus RPI opponents they scheduled weren't good for the RPI, but losing to beatable opponents like Mercer, Vandy, and Florida was just as bad.)
--The Auburn women will play Ole Miss tomorrow in the first round of the SEC Tournament after the Rebels eliminated Arkansas 65-60. The Tigers probably would have preferred the Razorbacks after having swept them 2-0 and annihilated them in Auburn's home finale/coronation--as opposed to the uninspiring 72-65 win in Beard-Eaves Auburn posted over the Rebels. But obviously, Auburn's hoping for a championship--if you can't beat the SEC's ninth-place team, you can't complain too much, can you?