Before we begin — please click play as you read:
In a surprise news dump this evening, Auburn basketball announced that the team will self-impose a postseason ban for the 2020-201 season.
Massive news: Auburn basketball has decided it will not play in the postseason in the 2020-21 season, citing the Chuck Person scandal. pic.twitter.com/rnjvVf3jBK— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) November 22, 2020
Now, before you get your little minds off and running with scary stories and visions of rotten sugar plums, let’s clear up what this is exactly about.
This self-imposition of a postseason ban is directly related to the Chuck Person saga from three years ago. If you want a timeline of that whole story, here’s the initial reaction from September 26, 2017 when I wrote an article entitled “Auburn Basketball is in Deep Trouble”.
Basically, Chuck Person was never involved in paying players to come to Auburn.
Also, a reminder of what the Chuck Person scandal actually was:— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) November 22, 2020
Person accepted bribes from financial advisors and paid money to families of two players in hopes of getting them to retain said advisors when their sons went pro.
It was not paying players to come to Auburn.
He was instead taking bribes from financial advisors — not agents, coaches, AAU shysters, etc — to get Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy to use those financial advisors when they left school. The NCAA will tell you as much.
There have been rumblings these past few days about Sharife Cooper and his supposed inelgibility, but rest assured that he’ll play on Thanksgiving Day, and that this postseason ban has nothing to do with him at all. This is all stemming back from the original mess in 2017.
Let’s not forget that what happened immediately upon news of this breaking.
- Auburn fired Chuck Person right away.
- Auburn suspended Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy for the entire 2017-18 season and still won the SEC Championship.
- Wiley and Purifoy paid back the money they had accepted in this whole deal.
- The NCAA said that sitting out in 2017 wasn’t enough, and had Purifoy sit out even more games over the next season (9 in total).
- Auburn also didn’t recruit over the entire season after Chuck Person was fired, and the only player that joined the team out of the 2018 signing “class” was J’Von McCormick, who was a JUCO transfer. They self-imposed recruiting sanctions.
Now, that should be enough, right? Auburn admitted wrongdoing, fired the guilty parties, and self-imposed penalties. Lots of penalties, then took some more from the NCAA in the form of extended suspensions for certain players.
Don’t let other SEC or college basketball fans get you down, because they’re going to try to. Take a look at any message board thread and you’ll see the same “Bruce Pearl, what do you expect” sentiment in regard to this. It’s expected that we would get tagged with something.
Earlier this week, the NCAA hit Alabama with a three-year probation stint and a $5,000 fine for something even more egregious than this — an associate athletics director facilitating a meeting between a player and financial advisors. And he’d been paid to set that meeting up. While Person was an assistant coach with the team, this was a member of the athletics department at the above-the-law universitah. Sounds like an institutional control problem to me.
Don’t forget that the head coach at LSU was caught on tape talking about paying players to come to LSU. LSU still isn’t out of the woods yet, and if everything involving their football program is to be believed, they’ll pay handsomely for a national championship on the gridiron and a meaningless regular season title on the hardwood.
So what does this mean for Auburn? Well, this year? Maybe not much at all. We were going to be a young team, but a talented team. If Sharife Cooper sticks around for his sophomore season, then the 2021-2022 team is the one to watch with the arrival of top-five player Jabari Smith (who signed his letter of intent just this past week).
What it does mean is that Auburn won’t be at the SEC Tournament or the NCAA Tournament, but the Tigers will get to play spoiler against a ton of teams. Furthermore, we’re assuming that we get to a point where college basketball will be played into the spring.
At this rate, we’ll be well north of 200K COVID cases per day in December, and with some states already imposing lockdowns of some sort again, things aren’t looking great for sports to continue uninterrupted. This past weekend we had 14 canceled or postponed football games, and this coming weekend already has a couple of cancelations on the docket, including the Apple Cup. There’s much talk that a Joe Biden administration will enforce another lockdown in conjunction with a vaccine rollout to mitigate the spread of the virus after he’s inaugurated. If we go into a 4-6 week lockdown, college basketball will not be played.
This may be the perfect season for Auburn to volunteer a postseason ban. If we can get everyone back from this group for the 2021-2022 team, that will be a preseason national championship contender. At the very least, Auburn is being proactive about this (even though they were proactive three years ago already), while teams like LSU, Arizona, and Duke are thumbing their noses at the NCAA. We’ll see which approach works best here.