Having just wrapped up one of the most successful seasons in Colorado Buffaloes history, Tad Boyle has been vindicated. That’s not because of anything happening in Boulder, but because his rivals are in the spotlight.
Back in 2017-18, the Buffs were a baby-faced team that was still figuring out how to play together. Led by freshmen McKinley Wright and Tyler Bey, this team flashed a ton of potential and even more grit. The highlight of the season was consecutive upsets over Arizona and Arizona State, the former of which was embroiled in FBI investigations into their recruiting practices. When asked if beating Arizona meant more because of those FBI investigations, Boyle answered emphatically, “Absolutely.”
Nothing came of the FBI investigation, but it paved the way for the NCAA to allege major recruiting violations against both Arizona and USC. There was already significant pressure on Wildcats head coach Sean Miller for never reaching the Final Four and this hurt his reputation even more, particularly on the recruiting trail. Negative recruiting increased as other coaches told players that the NCAA was closing in on Arizona and that Miller was coaching on borrowed time. Miller began recruiting European prospects because his reputation was better overseas than at home.
Miller was fired from Arizona basketball last week. He had one year remaining on his contract and the university did not want him as a lame duck. His final season ended with a fifth-place finish and a self-imposed postseason ban.
Arizona announced on Wednesday that they will hire former Gonzaga assistant Tommy Lloyd. It’s a promising hire, as Lloyd is a tremendous recruiter and helped Mark Few build a powerhouse in Spokane, Washington of all places. Before that announcement, however, a certain ‘Cats beat writer talked up the possibility of hiring Tad Boyle. Fans of both CU and Arizona lambasted poor Jason Scheer, rightfully so. The idea is laughable, not only because Boyle is already at his dream job, but because he is so antithetical to the Arizona brand.
Boyle has also been a loud critic of Andy Enfield’s tenure at USC. Everyone assumes Enfield is cheating on the recruiting trail. Everyone cheats at least a little, but few are as crass as him. The entire saga with the Mobley family — hiring father Eric on staff, recruiting Isaiah in 2019, then Evan in 2020 — reads as shady at best.
USC was one of seven schools, along with Arizona, investigated by the FBI over allegations of bribery, fraud and money laundering. Former USC assistant Tony Bland pleaded guilty to charges of bribery, but like every other head coach involved, Enfield escaped through plausible deniability. The man always has an excuse, whether it’s in the lawyer’s office or in the media room after his seventh straight loss to the Buffs.
On Thursday, the NCAA levied sanctions against the USC basketball program for violations uncovered in the FBI investigation. There was no postseason ban, as Oklahoma State and Arizona received or self-imposed, no real loss of scholarships and slight budget reductions. It is a slap on the wrist that does little to curb USC’s recruiting strategies, nor does it destabilize the program as it did Arizona.
The funny thing is that as Arizona is reeling, and as USC is under pressure, the Buffs have never been more successful on the recruiting trail. The class of 2020 looks fantastic with Jabari Walker leading, the class of 2021 is the 15th best in the nation, and the class of 2022 is barely in the fold, but Boyle has already plucked a top-100 big man from Big Ten country.
Even if Arizona made the right hire and USC barely faced punishment, this has to be a fun time for the Colorado coaching staff.