Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
St. Mary's might have lost chances at the NCAA Tournament and a key piece of its identity with the penalties leveled by the NCAA on Friday.
During one of the multiple random basketball chats that Doctor Geeves and I have, he mentioned that he wondered whatever became of the report that St. Mary's was under investigation by the NCAA for recruiting violations.
Friday afternoon, we all found out.
St. Mary's was placed on four years probation for violations of recruiting rules, especially as they pertain to international recruits. The violations apparently occurred under the watchful eye of one unnamed assistant coach, who was given a two-year show cause penalty -- you know, the one where you have to prove to the NCAA why you should be allowed to hire the guy.
Forget all of the details of this for a second, and just think about what this means about the makeup of the Gaels. This is a team with a well-known pipeline to Australia and New Zealand and basically everything in that area of the world. This has become their persona. You can't look at current star Matthew Dellavedova -- and we are not saying that he is in any way indicated as one of the players that were part of this -- and not remember that St. Mary's is where it is because of that pipeline.
The majority of the recruiting activity by the former assistant coach centered on an international prospect and included impermissible travel, local transportation and the arrangement of host family accommodations. He also attempted to assist a second international prospect by providing personal financial information as part of the prospect's efforts in obtaining a student visa. The impermissible activity occurred both while the former assistant coach was employed by the college and as an athletics representative after he was no longer employed with the college.
The head coach was also aware of the former assistant coach's recruiting activity with the international prospect for whom the former assistant coach arranged travel to the United States and lodging with a local family. The committee notes that these were "red flags" and should have alerted the head coach to the need for heightened vigilance with regard to the former assistant coach's recruiting activity. Additionally, the head coach knew that impermissible conditioning and practice sessions were conducted by two individuals not employed by the college, resulting in failure to monitor and promote an atmosphere for compliance.
So what does this all mean? Well, the Gaels will lose two scholarships for two years, in the middle of the four-year suspension. Randy Bennett will also need to be sitting elsewhere for five games next season, as in not on the bench.
But here is the biggest part. Outside of postseason tournaments, St. Mary's won't be allowed to participate in a multi-team even for the next four years. That means no high profile chances in Alaska, or Maui, or even Atlantis. St. Mary's is going to have to seek out good games elsewhere.
They will also not be allowed to travel internationally for the next four years. That means no trips to Australia, or Europe, or even Canada.
These last two penalties are big blows to the persona of St. Mary's and their ability to schedule well during the season and hope to gain at large bids for the NCAA Tournament.
Without that restriction, St. Mary's managed just one top-50 RPI win this season: the Bracket Busters win over Creighton. Even that might not stay a top-50 win given the recent struggles of the Bluejays. In the top 100 teams, they have wins over BYU, Utah State, Santa Clara and Harvard, not exactly the kind of names that make the committee take notice.
This is why the Gaels are on the bubble right now, despite some nice computer numbers from both the MRI and Ken Pom. This is why the Gaels desperately need to beat Gonzaga in the conference tournament.
Now go and eliminate maybe the one chance that most teams get to play Big 6 competition outside of on their home court. That is going to make things very difficult over the next several seasons. If the Gaels don't make the NCAA Tournament in a couple of weeks, it could be a while before we see the Gaels dancing again.