The NCAA’s investigation into Southern Miss basketball for alleged violations committed under Tennessee head coach Donnie Tyndall is heating up. Yesterday, I joined The Drive and reported that the NCAA would speak with Donnie Tyndall as early as next week. ESPN’s Jeff Goodman confirmed that the NCAA will be in town Tuesday to speak with Tyndall in a story he filed this morning.
We’ve heard from multiple independent sources that the NCAA is offering Southern Miss players, administrators and coaches immunity in exchange for their testimony. In addition, multiple sources have indicated that at least one former Tyndall assistant is believed to be cooperating with the investigation and that another is considering doing the same.
CBS Sports identified former Tyndall assistant Wade O’Connor as one of the NCAA’s “primary sources” in the investigation. O’Connor served as Tyndall’s associate head coach at Southern Miss for one season in addition to holding the same position at Morehead State for two years. He even worked Donnie Tyndall’s basketball camp this summer.
Several sources have also relayed that this investigation came about after at least one of Tyndall’s former players went to the NCAA with several accusations after Tyndall left Hattiesburg for Knoxville. Additionally, CBS Sports noted that the alleged violations at Southern Miss could go deeper than the Proposition 48 issues first reported by Bleacher Report.
This isn’t trending in a good direction for Tyndall and Tennessee – there’s no denying that.
Yet, as serious as the allegations are and with as many people lining up to testify against Tyndall as there appear to be, the NCAA can’t punish Tyndall without physical proof that he knew about, and/or was an active participant in, these alleged violations. It’s too early to say if the NCAA will be able to produce enough of just that as the investigation unfolds.
It’s worth noting that Tyndall was not named in the NCAA’s investigation into violations Morehead State committed under his watch. Morehead received two years of probation for “major violations in its recruiting related to booster activity” in August of 2010. Tyndall was the head coach at Morehead State from 2006 to 2012 before taking the reins at Southern Miss.
Tyndall has publicly expressed confidence that this storm will pass. “I’m not allowed to comment on it,” Tyndall said when speaking to the Knoxville Quarterback Club on Monday. “I know there will be probably be those that want to ask and have questions, but I will be fully cooperating. I can’t comment at all until it’s run its course, but I feel very confident that everything is going to be fine. I just have to leave it at that.”
That message is consistent with what Tyndall said shortly after news of the investigation broke last week.”If I’m asked to cooperate I will cooperate 100%,” he said. “That’s all I will say or can say at this time.”
According to ESPN, Tyndall has retained the counsel of Stu Brown – an attorney with Ice Miller’s Collegiate Sports Practice in Indianapolis. According to Ice Miller’s website, Brown “counsels and represents college athletics stakeholders including universities, conferences, coaches, administrators, student-athletes and commercial entities. He assists these clients regarding NCAA rules compliance and infractions; student-athlete eligibility; coach and administrator employment contracts and employment termination matters; endorsement, licensing and sponsorship agreements; strategic planning; dispute resolution; and other business matters.”