Shamrock Thoughts: FBI Probe Of NCAA Violations In Basketball


It shouldn’t have to come down to the FBI doing this, but it goes to show how bad of an organization the NCAA really is. We’ve all known that for a while that schools try to recruit players in the least ethical ways and hope they don’t get caught, but it seems as though the NCAA turned the other cheek and allowed so much corruption to happen that even the most powerful investigative agency in not only the country, but possibly the world to step in and uncover all of that. This isn’t the first time the FBI has done something like this as they helped uncover all of the corruption happening with FIFA. The FBI shouldn’t have to and shouldn’t be getting involved, but considering the NCAA can’t check themselves or check possible violators, something had to be done.

Yahoo! Sports recently published an article about the FBI’s investigation that showed around 20 of the top schools in college basketball were implicated in possible NCAA rules violations. According to the ESPN article that wrote about what Yahoo! Sports had published, here were some of the violators:

Potential impermissible benefits and preferential treatment for players and families
Alabama, Duke, Kentucky, LSU, Maryland, Michigan State, NC State, North Carolina, Seton Hall, Texas, USC, Washington

Schools named in former ASM Sports employee Christian Dawkins’ expense reports (seeking reimbursement for thousands of dollars he paid to college and high school players and their families)
Clemson, Kansas, Louisville, Michigan State, South Carolina, Texas, USC, Utah, Wichita State, Xavier

Schools that had players/families listed as meeting with Dawkins
Alabama, Creighton, Duke, Iowa State, Kentucky, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Texas, Vanderbilt, Virginia

Schools with active players implicated
Alabama (Collin Sexton), Duke (Wendell Carter), Kentucky (Kevin Knox), Michigan State (Miles Bridges), South Carolina (Brian Bowen), Texas (Eric Davis Jr.), USC (Bennie Boatwright)

Schools with former players implicated
Clemson, Creighton, Iowa State, Kansas, Louisville, LSU, Maryland, NC State, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Seton Hall, Utah, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Washington, Wichita State, Xavier

However, the is no bigger possible violator in all of this than University of Arizona. FBI had wiretapped intercepted telephone conversations between Arizona head coach Sean Miller and a man named Christian Dawkins (this name was mentioned earlier and a very important name to this investigation by the FBI) where Miller talked about paying $100,000 so that DeAndre Ayton, Arizona’s star freshman, would attend the school. The next day after the report, Miller did not coach Arizona’s game against Oregon as both he and the school agreed to him not coaching the game claiming “best interests of the University and the basketball program.”

So who is Christian Dawkins? Well before we get into who he is, you need to know who Andy Miller is. According to the ESPN article this is what was said who he is:

“A prominent former NBA agent and the founder of ASM Sports. He represented the likes of Kevin Garnett, Kristaps Porzingis and Kyle Lowry, but relinquished his certification in December amid unfolding allegations that his agency was heavily involved in the college basketball scandal. Miller’s computer was seized last year in an FBI raid. Teaming with Dawkins, Miller issued four- and five-figure payments to several high school and college players, according to Yahoo! Sports.”

Now you know who Miller is, but what about Dawkins? This is what the ESPN article had to say:

“The sports agent, former youth tournament director and AAU figure who is alleged to have been instrumental in conspiring with others implicated in the scandal to arrange payments to each of the four assistant coaches arrested in September. Before opening his own agency, Dawkins, 25, worked for Miller’s ASM Sports.”

According to the article, a few former players were listed in the documents such as Dennis Smith Jr (NC State), Isaiah Whitehead (Seton Hall), Bam Adebayo (Kentucky), Markelle Fultz (Washington), Kyle Kuzma (Utah), PJ Dozier (South Carolina), Josh Jackson (Kansas) as to having received money from their schools.

I also copy and pasted from the article some other key elements like people who are involved and the timeline of the FBI probe:

Chuck Person: The Auburn assistant employed by coach Bruce Pearl since 2014. Person previously served as an assistant with four NBA teams after 14 seasons as a player in the league. He played at Auburn from 1982 to 1986. He was fired after the November indictment.

Lamont Evans: Fired on Sept. 28 by Oklahoma State after six months on the job. Evans previously worked at South Carolina and was alleged, while at both schools, to have accepted payments.

Emanuel “Book” Richardson: The Arizona assistant employed by coach Sean Miller at the school since 2009 and previously at Xavier. Richardson was accused of accepting payments to steer players. He was fired on Jan. 11.

Tony Bland: The USC associate head coach employed by coach Andy Enfield since 2013. Bland was accused of accepting payments to steer players and was fired in January by USC; he was the last of four assistants named in the original report to lose his job.

Jim Gatto: The senior Adidas marketing executive at the center of the scheme, according to federal officials, to direct payments to prep players and their families in exchange for their commitments to play at Adidas-sponsored college programs. He was widely known in college basketball as a key dealmaker in the apparel and shoe industry.

Merl Code: The Adidas consultant, former Nike employee and Clemson basketball player charged with federal wire fraud for his work with Gatto to funnel payments to prep players and their families.

Brian Bowen: The No. 14-rated prospect in the recruiting class of 2017, he signed with Louisville and ultimately played a key role in the toppling of coach Rick Pitino. Bowen was identified in the initial FBI findings as a prospect who received payment. Yahoo! reported that Dawkins paid for $1,500 in plane tickets for Bowen and that his family received at least $7,000 in benefits. Bowen joined coach Frank Martin’s team at South Carolina in January and has not been cleared by the NCAA to play.

Jonathan Brad Augustine: Former AAU director and youth coach implicated in September as a co-conspirator in the scandal. Federal prosecutors asked a judge in early February to drop charges against Augustine.

Munish Sood: The financial adviser named in September by federal officials, he was accused of arranging at least $22,000 in payments to Evans. Sood formed a sports management firm in 2017 with Dawkins and also directed payments to Bland and Richardson in exchange for influence, according to the feds. Sood was not among the eight men indicted in November.

Rashan Michel: The former NCAA referee arrested in September who owned an Atlanta-based clothing company and was alleged to have arranged $91,500 in payments to Person for the coach’s influence. Michel reportedly outfitted many NBA and NFL stars.

Timeline of events

Sept. 26: The FBI and United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced the arrests of 10 men, including assistant coaches Person, Evans, Bland and Richardson, in connection with fraud and corruption schemes under investigation since 2015. The federal officials alleged that the coaches took cash bribes from business managers and financial advisers in exchange for the coaches’ influence to direct selected players and their families to retain the services of the advisers who provided the bribes once the players entered the NBA. Additionally, a senior executive with Adidas was accused by the feds of working with the corrupt advisers to funnel payments to high school players and their families in exchange for the players’ commitments to attend Adidas-sponsored schools.

Oct. 16: Pitino was fired by Louisville, completing the Hall of Fame coach’s separation from the school after he was placed on administrative leave on Sept. 27 — one day after the unveiling of the scandal by federal officials. Louisville was fingered by the feds for directing money from Adidas to two high school prospects, including Bowen.

Oct. 18: Tom Jurich was fired with cause as athletic director at Louisville.

Nov. 7: Eight of the 10 men arrested in September — the four coaches, plus Gatto, Code, Dawkins and Michel — were indicted by a federal grand jury in New York.

Feb. 15: A U.S. district court judge denied a motion to dismiss charges against Gatto, Code and Dawkins.

Feb. 23: Yahoo! Sports publishes documents from the FBI’s investigation into college basketball corruption that show possible NCAA rules violations by more than 20 Division I teams.

That is a lot to digest, but it doesn’t stop there. Clearly the NCAA were sitting on their hands and not doing a good job of keeping schools in check. Simply, they did not do their job or they did not do it well. It seemed like the NCAA was apathetic to keeping up with their standards and turned their cheeks to being ethical. The NCAA also has a history of committing some cold and heartless acts, along with some minor but petty ones too, as they have penalized schools for violations that are, for a lack of a better term, harsh. Actually, that might be an understatement as I would categorize it as cruel. A coach took one of his players, who had just lost a parent, out to lunch before putting him on a plane to go back home and the NCAA deemed that as a violation. That’s a violation you turn the other cheek on instead of turning your cheek on something thats a lot more serious because you either don’t want do your job to investigate it or you’re too incompetent to do it. Here is a segment that John Oliver did that talks about the NCAA as an organization.

Then there is the president of the organization Mark Emmert who came out with a statement after the Yahoo! Sports article:

“These allegations, if true, point to systematic failures that must be fixed and fixed now if we want college sports in America. Simply put, people who engage in this kind of behavior have no place in college sports. They are an affront to all those who play by the rules. Following the Southern District of New York’s indictments last year, the NCAA Board of Governors and I formed the independent Commission on College Basketball, chaired by Condoleezza Rice, to provide recommendations on how to clean up the sport. With these latest allegations, it’s clear this work is more important now than ever. The Board and I are completely committed to making transformational changes to the game and ensuring all involved in college basketball do so with integrity. We also will continue to cooperate with the efforts of federal prosecutors to identify and punish the unscrupulous parties seeking to exploit the system through criminal acts.”

Charles P. Pierce had the most perfect response to Emmert’s comments in his Sports Illustrated article:

“For the love of heaven, please shut up. There is some talk abroad in the land that the findings of this investigation will lay amateurism to rest once and for all. Read Emmert’s statement again. He sees this as an opportunity to position the NCAA again as the guardians of academic and athletic purity, as a way to break its two-year losing streak and regain control over the help. If you need more evidence that this is Emmert’s long game, consider that the FBI already has said that the universities involved are not objects of the investigation. So, players get named and shamed. Coaches get fired. Agents go broke on legal fees. But Boards of Regents go merrily on, waving their foam fingers in the air and grazing the buffet tables and groaning boards paid for by their ‘corporate partners.’

Emmert gets to puff himself up about ‘those who play by the rules’ while his lawyers equate the athletes who pay his salary with convicts working in prison sweatshops. (There’s a very audible dog whistle in there, too.) From all this I conclude that this FBI investigation, while a colossal waste of time and money, is one of the best things that ever happened to the NCAA and to its status quo, a status quo that remains an affront to common sense and simple justice. And the FBI, god knows, should have better things to do than to gumshoe around trying to figure out who paid for somebody’s sandwich.”

Thank you Charles, you cannot say it any better. Emmert is trying to make himself look serious, but I for the life of me cannot see him that way. Considering how adamant he is that players are just amateurs and shouldn’t be paid, he seems as though only cares about the money. In our article about the Larry Nassar trial, we mentioned that The Athlete’s Nicole Auerbach came out saying that NCAA president Mark Emmert was informed about 37 incidents at Michigan State that Nassar committed in 2010 and did nothing. So there are two hypotheses here about Emmert, he either only cares about the two money grabbing sports in football and in men’s basketball or he is incompetent. It also could be a combination of both, but with how much money the NCAA makes from television ad revenue during the Division I men’s basketball tournament (in the billions of dollars range), you cannot rule out corruption. Did the NCAA not learn from the mistakes of corruption from the FIFA scandal? Also, the FBI should not be coming in to do the NCAA’s job of investigating these violations. And lastly, with this probe, the NCAA should have done their job of suspending the players such as DeAndre Ayton because of the violations which would have made him ineligible (there is a rule that says that if a player accepts money from an agent, they are deemed ineligible). It didn’t though and because it was so close to the tournament, the NCAA let it be because they probably didn’t want a star player sitting out of their biggest money grabber (the NCAA had deemed a few players ineligible, but no big time names which only goes to show that money is only on their minds). Ayton is likely to be gone after this season anyways as he is probably going into the NBA draft, but over the offseason, the NCAA will have to do a lot of work. Clean up the mess and clear out any trace of corruption. But most importantly, the NCAA needs to do a better job of cracking down on schools.

*Tali Raphael’s column about the probe is linked as well. A great read for any college basketball fan.



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