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Schools start holding out players with ineligibility concerns tied to FBI probe

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Will Arizona follow suit?

NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Media Day Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The college basketball season is set to officially get underway this week, but a dark cloud will continue to hover over the sport when games start counting.

Now six weeks after the initial arrests and filed charges (including those against Arizona Wildcats assistant coach Book Richardson), schools are being forced to make decisions on players implicated in those documents.

On Monday, former Arizona A.D. Greg Byrne announced that Collin Sexton would not be playing for the Alabama Crimson Tide in their exhibition game as the school holds him out with concerns of ineligibility.

"The NCAA informed us late this afternoon that Collin Sexton has not had his eligibility reinstated by the NCAA," Byrne said in a statement. "We don't have any further information at this time, but we will continue to cooperate with the NCAA and work toward a resolution that results in Collin's timely reinstatement. While we are disappointed, the right decision was to err on the side of caution for tonight's exhibition game."

This decision comes days after Alabama’s in-state rival, the Auburn Tigers, decided to hold out two of their players that may have taken money from Chuck Person according to the FBI’s filing.

"To avoid any potential eligibility issues, Auburn Athletics has decided to hold men's basketball players Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy out indefinitely," the school said in a statement. "Because this is related to an ongoing investigation, we cannot comment further at this time."

It’s also been reported that the USC Trojans held De’Anthony Melton out of their secret scrimmages against San Diego State and San Francisco.

USC does not have any public exhibitions on their schedule and open their season at home Friday night against Cal State Fullerton.

And on top of all of this, Louisville and Brian Bowen are in an interesting spot after Bowen’s attorney said that his client had been cleared by the FBI, but not necessarily by the school or the NCAA.

"Brian (Jr.) was not aware of any of the alleged activities, and it is our position that he has not violated any NCAA rules or bylaws," Bowen's attorney Jason Setchen said. "It's a fundamental aspect of being an American that we are not held responsible for the actions of other people and we have a right to associate. It is unfair to Brian or any student-athlete to try and punish them for actions of others who are not in their control."


So what about Arizona?

The only move that Arizona has publicly made so far was the decision to relieve Book Richardson of all duties, although he is appealing the school’s decision to terminate him.

So what happens now? According to the documents, one current player on the roster is stated to have received payments in addition to the formal charges brought against Richardson. Has that player been deemed ineligible by the NCAA and will Arizona have to hold them out starting Friday?

Conspiracy theories out there have linked the injuries of Rawle Alkins and Brandon Randolph to a way that the team may be holding out players without coming out and saying that they’re ineligible.

I don’t think Sean Miller would do something like that, especially since he’s certainly feeling the heat now, and he would be putting himself at even more risk by hiding it.

But could one of those injured players be the one that received the payment and the injury is a coincidence that will work out in the team’s favor? Sure. If I have to pick a side on what’s happening, that’s the one I would take. There’s no reason for Arizona to disclose ineligibility if it doesn’t have to. And with Alkins out until at least December, there’s also no rush right now.

Miller has a weekly press conference on Tuesday morning in Tucson, and the team’s first regular season game is Friday evening against NAU. So if there is a healthy player that the team will have to hold out, Friday is the latest we’ll find out.

Either that or Arizona is going to roll the dice and not “err on the side of caution” like Alabama and others are doing right now.