UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad watches from the bench as the Bruins play… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad could miss 10 basketball games before he is cleared to compete for the Bruins, according to guidelines the NCAA uses to establish eligibility.
That figure is based on The Times' understanding of the alleged violations that prompted the NCAA to declare the 6-foot-6 swingman ineligible Friday. The number could change if the NCAA finds mitigating or aggravating factors in the case as it continues to examine information before making any additional ruling.
A final determination could be announced next week, according to people close to the situation who are not authorized to speak publicly while the case is being studied.
Muhammad's eligibility could also change based on an appeal UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero has said the school would file with the NCAA.
A prospective student-athlete who is ruled to have received more than $1,000 in impermissible benefits must repay those benefits and would be punished by being declared ineligible for 30% of a season, according to NCAA reinstatement guidelines. UCLA has a 32-game schedule, meaning the punishment would last 10 games. The Bruins' 11th game is against Prairie View A&M — about two weeks before the start of the Pac-12 Conference season.
In ruling Muhammad ineligible for UCLA's season opener Friday against Indiana State, the NCAA referred to three unofficial recruiting trips taken by Muhammad to two schools — Duke and North Carolina. Those trips were paid for by North Carolina-based financial advisor Benjamin Lincoln, people familiar with the situation said. The total cost of those trips, the people said, was between $1,500 and $2,000.
Muhammad's family has said that Lincoln is a friend who should qualify under NCAA rules as having a "preexisting relationship" that would allow him to offer financial aid to the player.
Guerrero said Friday that the NCAA determined that relationship "would not have allowed ... the family to receive the benefits that they got."
UCLA Coach Ben Howland said after the Bruins' 86-59 win over Indiana State that he had been "very optimistic" Muhammad would be cleared Friday and that the highly rated college rookie was healthy enough to play after recovering from a strained shoulder.
Asked after the game how UCLA would be affected going forward without Muhammad, Howland said, "You saw our team play tonight. That's what we're doing."
A West Coast-based NBA scout, speaking anonymously because he is not allowed to discuss college players, said Muhammad missing games would not affect his stock in next June's NBA draft.
"He's still a top-five pick, easy," the scout said.