Fennelly: Academic scandal hits USF at worst possible time

USF’s men’s basketball team is 17-48 in two years under coach Orlando Antigua and now appears headed for an academic scandal.
USF’s men’s basketball team is 17-48 in two years under coach Orlando Antigua and now appears headed for an academic scandal.
Published July 21, 2016

The Big 12 has decided to expand.

It's USF's best shot — its last shot — at the big time.

So how small can you get?

Meet the dumpster fire.

As if going 7-24 last season wasn't enough. The USF men's basketball program, already the worst show on campus, is now under NCAA investigation for possible academic fraud.

USF assistant coach Oliver Antigua has already resigned.

Can his older brother, USF head coach Orlando Antigua, be far behind?

I mean, I'm sure those two never talk …

What a disaster.

Nobody was coming to see USF men's basketball.

Problem is, now they might be able to smell it.

The school that had rightly been trumpeting academic excellence, all that good work, and which was poised to make a play for the Big 12 has a mess on its hands.

If I'm USF president Judy Genshaft, I'm on the rampage.

If I'm athletic director Mark Harlan, I'm not making any Big 12 phone calls today.

Maybe they should have stuck with the guy who didn't have a college degree.

We don't have all the facts, but it doesn't look good.

We already know that Orlando Antigua is 17-48 in two years.

If there was cheating, it sure was a long way to go just to stink.

We already know the Big 12 buzz at USF didn't even last 24 hours.

Maybe it'll be back.

This might not have been a deal-breaker.

That's not the point.

Wednesday was supposed to be a great day. Wednesday was time for Harlan to set the proper course for landing a spot in a power conference. Time for USF to go for it. Time to change USF athletics forever.

It wasn't a great day.

Harlan hired the personable Antigua (great smile, great sense of humor) as a solution.

Antigua would ride to the rescue after USF rescinded an offer to the school's first choice, Manhattan's Steve Masiello, who had lied about graduating from Kentucky.

A clean slate. A new man.

A better way of doing things.

Now what?

You can talk about the lousy timing of this.

But when's the good time?

Still, I can just see it: USF gathers Big 12 presidents at Bern's Steak House during College Football Championship week in Tampa. One of the presidents asks about men's basketball. Somebody from USF claps hands.

"Hey, who wants to hit the dessert room?"

If only all this was funny.

Lousy basketball is one thing.

Allegedly dirty basketball is another.

Antigua's story is a grabber. He was a former Harlem Globetrotter. His mother came to New York from the Dominican Republic and worked to support her three young sons, all of whom graduated college. And there was Halloween 1988, when Antigua survived being shot in the face during a drive-by shooting. It has been a success story, a survivor's story.

Now what?

"Absolutely I can see the light at the end of the tunnel," Antigua once said of USF's future. "It's about establishing work ethic, about going and recruiting the right kind of kids. We will get there if we do what we need today, every day."

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Question: What, exactly, did Antigua and his staff do to try to get there?

Until we know the answer, it's all tunnel, no light.