While we’re all focusing on Pitt’s horrendous season on the court, this week’s revelations in the world of college basketball were kind of a bombshell. Several schools have been the target of the FBI related to improprieties and it sounds as bad as suspected with numerous big time programs and players appearing to have broken rules. It’s basically a ‘Who’s Who’ list as Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State, North Carolina, and plenty of others are listed as potentially providing impermissible benefits and preferential treatment. ESPN has a full breakdown of schools and players named.
The biggest ripple in the pond for Pitt seems to be a minor one and the Panthers were not named in the report. Wade Baldwin, a player under current head coach Kevin Stallings at Vanderbilt, could have had minor involvement but even that is really fuzzy at the moment, since it isn’t clear that Baldwin even received any benefit. Baldwin has denied receiving any benefit, as has Stallings, who says he doesn’t even know the agent or the runner believed to be making payments. Assuming that’s all true, this seems like a complete non-factor for Pitt.
Former Pitt guard Kevin Willard and Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard could be in trouble as one of his recruits, Isaiah Whitehead, reportedly received a large payment. This article from NJ.com is coming right after him (and man, that title). Whitehead, you might recall, was a heavily-desired Pitt target once upon a time. But the bombshell that dropped late Friday involved former Pitt player and current Arizona head coach Sean Miller. According to Mark Schlabach, Miller reportedly discussed (on a wiretap) a $100,000 payment to be made to secure a commitment from recruit Deandre Ayton.
All of that stuff about being innocent until proven guilty remains, obviously. If true, however, this would seemingly end his career at Arizona.
Miller’s ties to Pitt are apparent. He starred as the point guard of the team in the late 1980s and early 1990s. More recently, he’s been the target of Pitt fans who had hoped he would come to coach the program after Jamie Dixon went to TCU to coach at his alma mater. Miller had no real interest and Pitt went on to hire Stallings.
ESPN’s Jay Bilas assumes Miller will be put on administrative leave and that Ayton is not likely to play until things are sorted out. He even took it a step further, calling it a ‘career-ending’ thing and doesn’t believe he will coach in college again. Bilas spoke harshly of Miller, and Seth Greenberg, echoing those thoughts, also says he believes Ayton’s career at Arizona is over.
Again, until more is known, it’s difficult to know where this goes. But if the allegations are true and the program takes on sanctions, well, you don’t need me to tell you that not landing Miller could be a benefit in disguise.
We’ve all lamented Pitt’s woes on the court this year and for good reason. But when you look at all of the big name programs that have been named, it seems to make the success of former head coach Jamie Dixon stand out even more. You never know what could come out later down the line but for now, Pitt appears to be clean - and that’s a great thing.