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August 29, 2019

NCAA Men’s College Basketball | FBI Investigation

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This has been a long summer for college basketball fans, as several of the nation’s top team’s futures are in jeopardy.  As early as 2017, the FBI has been investigating recruits and their families to see if they have received illegal cash payments.  In February of 2018, ESPN reported that up to thirty-six Division I schools could be facing violations as a result of these investigations. The report stated that some of the potential schools that could be facing allegations include, Virginia, Villanova, Xavier, Purdue, Auburn, Kansas, Duke, Cincinnati, Clemson, Texas Tech, Michigan State, North Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio State, Arizona, and Oklahoma. These schools are some of the nation’s best and reputed college basketball programs; the violations could alter the NCAA Division I college basketball program. Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel even went as far as saying “When this all comes out, Hall of Fame coaches should be scared, lottery picks won’t be eligible to play and almost half of the 16 teams the NCAA showed on its initial NCAA tournament show this weekend should worry about their appearance vacated.”

Who Has Been Indicted So Far

Chuck Person, former Auburn Assistant Basketball Coach, accepted $91,500 in bribes to influence top Auburn basketball players to sign with certain financial advisors and business managers once they became professional athletes. Additionally, Person provided payments of $11,000 and $7,500 to the families of Auburn basketball players. Person is pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and will receive twenty-four to thirty months of jail time.

Emanuel “Book” Richardson, former University of Arizona Assistant Basketball Coach, the story is rather interesting. Even though Richardson got paid $250,000 in salary each year, he was essentially broke. However, it seems like he did not have a problem spending money on himself.  Richardson was recorded saying to a Sports Agency Company that he gave three payments of $15,000 of his own money to the family of Jahvon Quinerly so that he would attend Arizona. Quinerly is a former five-star recruit, and McDonald’s All America, who committed to Arizona but de-committed after the news of the Richardson scandal came out. Once top recruits committed to Arizona, Richardson would receive money from Christian Dawkins, a sports agent, to steer the NBA caliber players to his Sports Agency company. These players include Chicago Bulls forward Rawle Alkins, New York Knicks guard Alonzo Trier, and most notably Phoenix Suns center DeAndre Ayton. On June 6th, Book Richardson was sentenced to two years and three months of supervised release for bribe payments.

Tony Bland, former University of Southern California Assistant Basketball Coach, is another individual who faced charges for accepting bribes from Christian Dawkins. Bland was caught flying in a private jet with an undercover FBI agent. This agent posed as a backer for Dawkins company and offered Bland $4,100 in bribe payments to steer potential NBA athletes to Christian Dawkins. On June 5th, Bland was sentenced to two years of probation and a hundred hours of community service.

Lamont Evans, former Oklahoma State Assistant Basketball Coach, was also indicted for receiving bribe payments from Christian Dawkins to steer players to his agency. Evans admitted to receiving $22,000. On June 7th. Evans was sentenced to three months in prison, yet could be deported since he is not a US citizen.

The most notable name and the only Head Coach to be involved in the bribery scandal is Louisville Men’s Basketball Head Coach, Rick Pitino. Rick Pitino was involved in a scheme to use money from the school’s sponsor, Adidas, to bribe high school recruits to attend the school. A complaint was released in Federal Court stated that Pitino made three phone calls to Adidas executive, Joey Gatto, just days before Brian Bowen, a five-star recruit surprisingly decided to play at Louisville. Before the decision, Bowen was expected to choose between Michigan State, Texas, Creighton, Arizona, and North Carolina State. When Bowen committed, Pitino claimed: “It was the luckiest he had been in forty years.”

Additionally, another federal complaint released shows a video of Christian Dawkins alleging that Pitino paid Brian Bowen by making three phone calls to Joey Gatto, which matches up with the other story.  Luck is not the reason why Brian Bowen committed to Louisville on that day. Ultimately, Pitino did not face charges but was forced to retire.

After the NCAA seized the office of Andy Miller, Christian Dawkin’s boss, they found hundreds of documents that include the details of payments to players; however, they were not receipts. According to Dawkin’s records, here is the cash that the players received.

  •        Dennis Smith Jr, North Carolina State: $73,5000
  •        Jarrell Martin, Louisiana State University: $52,472.72
  •        Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall University: $37,657
  •        Bam Adebayo, University of Kentucky: $36,500
  •        Tim Quarterman, Louisiana State University: $16,000
  •        Diamond Stone, University of Maryland: $14,303
  •        Markelle Fultz, University of Washington: $10,000
  •        Kyle Kuzma, The University of Utah: $9,500
  •        Edmond Sumner, Xavier University: $7,000
  •        P.J Dozier, University of Southern Carolina: $6,115
  •        Apple Jones, Mother of Kansas University Player Josh Jackson: $2,700
  •        Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson University: $1,100
  •        Fred VanVleet, Wichita State University: $1,000
  •        Brian Bowen, University of Louisville: $7,000
  •        Bennie Boatwright, University of Southern California: $2,000
  •        Chimezie Metu, University of Southern California: $2,000
  •        Eric Davis, University of Texas: $1,500
  •        Miles Bridges’ Mother of Michigan State University Player: $400
  •        Wendell Carter, Duke University: amount not specified
  •        Collin Sexton, University of Alabama: amount not specified
  •        Kevin Knox, University of Kentucky: amount not specified

It’s obvious that the indictments and documents are probably alarming news for the NCAA community, as it is clear that bribery is playing a role in some players recruitment decisions. LRT Sports had a chance to ask former Florida Gulf Coast University Women’s Basketball Player, Destiny Washington, if she had ever heard of an athlete receiving money to attend a school, excluding national news. Destiny responded with, “yes, I have heard of athletes receiving money.” However, on the contrary, when LRT Sports asked University of Arizona’s swim team member, Casey Ponton, the same question, Casey responded, “no, I have not heard of it. I attend the University of Arizona, and most athletes seem to share the same struggle of trying to earn more for athletic scholarships than they already have, excluding football players since they most receive full scholarships.” From the conflicting responses, it is tough to tell if this is a pattern of top recruits being bribed and to what degree in the NCAA community. However, once the FBI investigation is completed, we will certainly have a better idea.

Schools in the Hot Seat

Arizona – In May, the FBI launched an investigation into Arizona’s men’s basketball program. This does not come as a surprise as Arizona has been named dropped numerous times in the reports of potential bribery. Last February, ESPN released a report that FBI wiretaps of a conversation between Head Coach Sean Miller and Christian Dawkins discussing a $100,000 payment to get the #1 recruit in the country, DeAndre Ayton to commit to Arizona. However, later in a press conference, Sean Miller stated, “I have never paid a recruit or prospect or their family or representative to Arizona. I never have and never will.” With the FBI launching a full investigation on the University of Arizona basketball program, they are destined to reveal the truth and find out if Head Coach Sean Miller did pay Deandre Ayton.

LSU – It has also been reported that the FBI has uncovered wiretaps of a conversation between LSU Men’s Basketball Coach, Will Wade, and Christian Dawkins. In this conversation, Miles states that he made a hell of an offer to one particular recruit. Additionally, in a secretly recorded video that was shown in federal court, shows former University of Arizona Assistant Coach, Book Richardson, stating that Wade told him about a $300,000 deal so that McDonald’s All-American Naz Reid would commit to LSU.

Evidence has been presented that the other schools that are allegedly bribing players are Creighton, Kansas, Louisville, NC State, and Oregon. However, only Arizona, Kansas, Louisville, NC State, and USC are under investigation currently.

What to Expect Moving Forward

The NCAA released a statement that they expect at least six schools to be notified of serious NCAA violations within the coming months and likely additional schools after that. These violations will be characterized as Level I violations so they will have the most severe consequences. These Level I punishments consist of multi-year postseason bans, scholarship reductions, and show-cause orders against head coaches.  Also, expect to see a lot more reports coming out from the FBI investigations. Even though typically most reports have been involving Arizona, LSU, Kansas, USC, and Louisville, and maybe other men’s college basketball programs are susceptible. This FBI investigation can drastically impact men’s college basketball for many years to come.