In the last-tweeted words of embattled point guard Varez Ward, just can’t win for losing. SMH.
OK, so Ward is only under investigation for point shaving, according to Yahoo! Sports, and not every FBI investigation turns up something.
Given the history of such cases — and how promptly Auburn officials seem to have reported a potential problem — it doesn’t appear likely the school will suffer NCAA penalties.
The worst likely outcome looks to be that Ward, a Montgomery native who transferred into Auburn’s program from Texas, could face legal issues, and that’s far from certain.
It’s also a safe bet that the FBI could find reasons to look into other players at other programs, but the bureau is looking into an Auburn player.
That looks bad for the program that gave us the Moochie Norris/Chris Davis scandal in 1995.
It looks bad for the program that gave us the Chris Porter scandal in 2000.
It looks bad for the program that wound up suffering NCAA sanctions in 2004 and hasn’t played an NCAA Tournament game in nine years.
The Tigers bowed out of the SEC Tournament with a 68-54 loss to Ole Miss on Thursday and won’t play an NCAA Tournament game this year. Even with a promising recruiting class, the Tigers look to be at least two years away from a return to March Madness.
For now, they are mired in the appearance of March Badness.
While their sport is about to put a twinkle in the CBS eyeball, Auburn is staring at another black eye, say nothing of another potential step backward to check any steps forward.
Second-year coach Tony Barbee and staff are doing what they can to control damage. They reportedly worked the phones this week, warning and reassuring recruits and their families about the negative headlines.
The father of top signee Jordan Price, a Rivals100 guard, said his son was “shocked” by the news, but “we have no second thoughts” about his school choice.
But perpetual need is how the Tigers keep taking steps backward for every step forward.
The football-crazy state of Alabama has a hard enough time keeping its top basketball talent home, and Auburn has competition from Alabama for the players who stay. Auburn is light on passion and tradition for basketball but, somehow, must recruit players capable of winning in the SEC.
That means taking risks in recruiting, and those risks have a history of biting the Tigers. If not for off-court issues that sidelined forward Josh Dollard for his final two years of eligibility, Auburn might have made the NCAA Tournament since 2003.
Jeff Lebo might still be the coach.
The list of players who didn’t finish their eligibility at Auburn for one reason or another is long, and untimely attrition only exacerbates the need for more risk. Results in recent years have Auburn seemingly locked into being an undermanned SEC team that must play ugly basketball to have a chance.
The hope at Auburn was that the new Auburn Arena and Barbee, a hot coaching prospect with a John Calipari pedigree, would change all of that. They might yet.
But here Auburn stands, two years into all of that, and a player who transferred into this program in perpetual need has drawn scrutiny from the FBI.
Questions about Ward’s activities reportedly started with teammates expressing concerns to coaches. Those concerns quickly worked their way to authorities, and the FBI reportedly has seized Ward’s cell phone.
We’ll see what comes of it. It might be nothing, and reports quoting sources with knowledge of Ward’s version of events say he has denied wrongdoing.
For now, the news feeds into the narrative of Auburn as the program that, to borrow Ward’s words, can’t win for losing.
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.