A breaking story this afternoon has already had an impact on Tennessee's basketball future, and how much it affects its present remains to be seen. Bleacher Report first had the story of an NCAA investigation of Southern Miss basketball during Tyndall's time as the head coach. The investigation reportedly centers on how Southern Miss players' tuition and expenses were paid when they enrolled but were not immediately eligible for scholarship benefits. Gary Parrish at CBS flushes out some of the details as well:
But sources told CBSSports.com the allegations are serious, and that Tyndall will have a hard time avoiding fault, and I sure wouldn't want to be UT AD Dave Hart right now
Tennessee has taken a no comment stance; Donnie Tyndall spoke with media today and only said he would cooperate with any investigation if asked.
This news has already cost Tennessee its biggest piece of the future: four-star guard Chris Clarke de-committed from the Vols and is now a Virginia Tech commit.
Tyndall landing Clarke was a great start to recruiting and what we hoped would be re-loading the Vol basketball program. His loss hurts, to be sure, but there is the potential for even greater damage to be done here if Tyndall is found responsible in this investigation. Tennessee just danced with the NCAA at the end of Bruce Pearl's tenure, which ultimately and famously cost Pearl his job. Now Pearl is at Auburn, Cuonzo Martin is at Cal, and Donnie Tyndall could be in trouble and he hasn't coached a game yet.
It's at the very least a bad look for a program trying to maintain the high level of success enjoyed in Knoxville for the last nine years, including six years of unprecedented success with Pearl and a point away from the Elite Eight with Martin just eight months ago. This year was probably always going to be rough, but early returns suggested Tyndall was not only a proven winner at lower levels, but a better fit than Cuonzo Martin. But, as Pearl found out, there are no good fits when the NCAA comes calling.
Tennessee Basketball was already vulnerable. But this news could make things considerably more fragile. Stay tuned.
(As an aside: I find myself aware of how much worse this news would've felt if Josh Dobbs and the Vols don't pull off the huge comeback Saturday night. Basketball does not impact football. But football impacts everything.)