Just 51 days removed from being named the new coach at Iona, Hall of Famer Rick Pitino is already under intense NCAA scrutiny as the findings of a scandal investigation dating back to his tenure at Louisville come to light. On Monday, the NCAA released its long-anticipated notice of allegations related to his former employer and misdeeds allegedly committed while leading the Cardinals program. Those allegations include a Level I violation levied against the university for improper recruiting benefits provided to the family of an enrollee and three Level II violations — one of which tags Pitino with failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance.
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How do you think your perimeter defense will translate to the next level? Mason Jones: I feel like I can really guard one through four. I can do a lot. I can guard a point guard, I can guard a shooting guard and I can guard a small forward; it’s just about the match-ups. I had to play a lot of four because our team was small and Coach just wanted us to go small, so I was doing everything I could do for our team. As you can tell if you watched us play, we switched everything one through five. When I go to the next level, that is really going to carry on because I was able to guard so many positions. So dealing with my IQ and the way I’m going to keep getting faster on my foot speed and everything that is going to happen this summer while training will help me as it translates to the next level.
Now Dawkins, who has started a new career representing artists in the music industry, is willing to say a few things. The film is told through his viewpoint — from his upbringing as the son of a high school coach in Saginaw, Michigan, to becoming in his early 20s a confidant and dealmaker between star players, shoe companies, college programs and agents. It also contains a number of never-before-heard audio recordings of FBI-intercepted phone calls between Dawkins and LSU coach Will Wade and Arizona’s Miller.
Dawkins made a joke about Wade overpaying for recruits. Dawkins: “And Will Wade — I told Book, I said, ‘Will Wade is like driving up the price of [players]. Cause he’s not even doing like real numbers.’ ” Miller: “I tell you what, ‘I’ll give him credit. He’s got a big set of balls on him.’ ” Dawkins: “No, Will Wade doesn’t give a [expletive], Sean.”
At the time, Dawkins says he was just trying to help Miller figure out how to win the recruiting battle. “Sean wanted Nassir really badly,” Dawkins said in the film. “He knew I had a relationship with the grassroots coaches who at that time I think we were all under the impression had the juice with the situation. I basically told him that it basically was going to come down to Miami and Arizona. And what I think needed to happen for the kid to come out to Arizona.”
A New Jersey financial adviser was praised for his cooperation and a judge spared him from prison Thursday after he admitted his role in a college basketball scandal. Munish Sood, 47, was fined $25,000 but was not sentenced to prison or forced to be supervised by probation authorities. U.S. District Judge Kimba M. Wood said she’ll rule on restitution at a later point.
During testimony at a trial last October, Sood said he gave about $19,500 in 2017 to the father of top recruit Brian Bowen Jr. to get him to commit to the University of Louisville. After the payments were revealed, Bowen left Louisville. The school also fired coach Rick Pitino. Last year, Sood was among defendants sued by Bowen in federal court in South Carolina.
Gassnola also testified he made payments of $40,000 to people close to Dennis Smith Jr., a former five-star recruit who spent one-and-a-half seasons at NC State before being a lottery pick in the 2017 NBA draft.
Additionally, Gassnola testified he gave $15,000 to a family friend of former Arizona star Deandre Ayton in 2015, when Ayton was in high school, to establish a relationship between Adidas and the Ayton family.
After a five-month investigation into lawyer Michael Avenatti’s allegations that Nike paid athletes, including Zion Williamson, to attend college basketball programs it sponsored, Duke “found no evidence” the former Blue Devils basketball star’s eligibility was compromised, according to information provided exclusively to The News & Observer on Friday. Duke spokesman Michael Schoenfeld, in an email to The News & Observer, confirmed the university’s investigation was completed with no findings of any NCAA violations involving Williamson, the 2019 ACC player of the year.
Avenatti, in a statement to the News & Observer Friday night, said that Duke didn’t seek information from him as part of its investigation. Without providing further documentation, he repeated his claim that Nike paid Williamson and that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was not only aware of the payment, but has been part of such payments to players for years. “I never heard from anyone associated with Duke in connection with my allegations or any investigation,” Avenatti said. “I was never asked a single question. I was never asked what information or documents that I was aware of. Who the hell conducted this investigation? Inspector Clouseau? The documents and the hard evidence do not lie. Zion Williamson was paid to attend Duke. Coach K has made and facilitated payments to players for years. And when the truth comes out — and eventually it will — Coach K and Duke’s reputation will be forever and rightfully tarnished.”
Lawyers for former Auburn University assistant basketball coach Chuck Person said Tuesday the 13-year NBA veteran was broke and financially desperate when he joined a bribery conspiracy that cheated young athletes by steering them toward bribe-paying advisers and managers. They asked a judge in papers filed in Manhattan federal court to spare him from prison in the scandal that touched some of the biggest schools in college basketball.
On the first day of May, a hush fell over a Manhattan federal courtroom as wooden doors opened and lawyers and defendants entered and took their seats. Soon after the judge ordered the day’s proceedings to begin, defense attorney Steve Haney said, “Thank you, your honor, and at this time, we would call Christian Dawkins.” It was a surprising development in a trial that had been highly anticipated in college basketball circles for months. Everyone directed their gaze toward the defense counsel’s table as Dawkins, 26, slowly rose from his seat and approached the witness stand. He would make a case for his innocence to the jury; the cost of failure could mean a prison sentence. Dawkins stood trial alongside Merl Code, a former Adidas consultant. Federal prosecutors were accusing the men of conspiring to bribe assistant basketball coaches to influence players to sign with Dawkins’s management company once they turned professional. The trial was the result of a three-year FBI investigation into corruption in the sport.
As I watched Dawkins testify, I saw him as a cautionary tale for the consequences of sidestepping a system designed to keep NCAA basketball players from being paid for their labor. In the prosecution’s opening remarks, Assistant U.S. Attorney Eli Mark said: “This is a case about money, bribes, and basketball. It’s about the seedy underground of college sports and two insiders who are looking to cheat to get ahead.”
Now, after more than 19 months on the sidelines waiting to fully engage the broadest scandal to ever hit college hoops, NCAA Enforcement personnel is in the game. Can they win it? The definitive answer to that question likely won’t be known before 2020, but the legwork has begun and will soon accelerate. The credibility of the NCAA as an investigative body is at stake. “For all the good in college basketball, we’ve had this cloud over our head for too long,” said the Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione. “As I talk to people throughout the industry, this is our one opportunity to aggregate our resources and address those who have tried to cheat their way through the business. I understand there are many complexities, I understand it’s going to require some time, but it’s time to get this right.”
Yahoo Sports spoke to a pair of former NCAA investigators who expressed general pessimism about how this investigation will play out in terms of the NCAA enforcement staff being able to achieve significant results. Even with the help of evidence, documents and testimony from the federal trials and the ability to directly import such information, they predicted the NCAA will struggle to find cooperative witnesses and corroborating evidence. (Also, there is little chance the court will accede to a motion from the NCAA asking for access to government evidence that was not entered into court.) “In terms of bringing down big-name coaches or putting big-time programs on probation with significant penalties, I am less confident that’s going to happen,” said Dan Matheson, a professor of sport management at the University of Iowa and a former NCAA associate director of enforcement. “I have not got the impression, at least from what’s available publicly in the news, that there’s been a lot of individuals that are offering up the big-name coaches. Going back to when this case was announced a couple of years ago, I don’t think you’ve seen the wide net being cast that’s brought in the number of big-time coaches that were originally expected. The damage is being limited to some of these assistant coaches.”
A former NBA ref who went into the bespoke suit business pleaded guilty on Tuesday to paying bribes to former Auburn coach and professional player Chuck “The Rifleman” Person as part of the massive NCAA basketball bribery scandal that has resulted in prison time for several participants. Rashan Michel, 44, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to conspiracy to commit bribery. According to the feds, in 2016, Michel introduced Person to a financial adviser who was actually a government cooperator and the three hatched a scheme in which Person would use his influence over players at Auburn University to encourage them to retain services from Michel and the adviser.
A former NBA ref who went into the bespoke suit business pleaded guilty on Tuesday to paying bribes to former Auburn coach and professional player Chuck “The Rifleman” Person as part of the massive NCAA basketball bribery scandal that has resulted in prison time for several participants. Rashan Michel, 44, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to conspiracy to commit bribery.
The defendant, Christian Dawkins, who has spent much of his young life in the netherworld of professional agents, coaches and hustlers, looked pained at the naïveté, not to mention the hypocrisy, encoded in this question. “We were definitely paying players, yes,” he said. “Everyone was paying players.” Dawkins, 26, did not stop there. He has watched poor athletes walk into the business known as big-time college hoops and scratch for pennies while coaches and colleges reap multiples of millions of dollars. “Me, personally, I don’t think there is anything wrong with paying players,” he said. “They are the only people in college basketball who can’t get paid. “The idea that it’s an amateur world is not real.”
An FBI-intercepted phone call from June 2017 between basketball middleman Christian Dawkins and then-Arizona associate head coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson was played in federal court Wednesday morning. On the call, Richardson tells Dawkins that Arizona head coach Sean Miller was paying, or had promised to pay, $10,000 a month for Deandre Ayton, who would go on to become the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft.
On one call between Dawkins and Richardson, the two discussed Ayton and the possibility of Dawkins’ management company eventually signing Ayton. That’s when Miller came up. “You know what he bought per month,” Richardson said on the call concerning what Richardson believed was Miller’s agreement with Ayton. “What he do?” Dawkins asked. “I told you, 10,” Richardson said. Later, Dawkins said, “Hey, he’s putting up some real money for them [racial slur].”
According to multiple reports, former A&M assistant Amir Abdur-Rahim allegedly met with agent Christian Dawkins, former financial advisor Marty Blazer and an undercover member of law enforcement to discuss payments to former A&M player Robert Williams.
According to Blazer’s testimony in federal court, Abdur-Rahim shipped a pair of shoes stuffed with $11,000 to Williams in 2017.
The recruitment of Zion Williamson by Duke, North Carolina and Clemson was a hot topic Thursday in the federal college basketball bribery trial in New York, and Marvin Bagley III’s name came up as well, but there was no evidence provided that Williamson or Bagley or their families received any improper benefits.
Three assistant coaches were shown on FBI videotapes receiving cash in the Las Vegas hotel room: former TCU assistant Corey Barker received $6,000, former Creighton assistant Preston Murphy received $6,000 and former USC assistant Tony Bland received $13,000, which he claimed he needed for the recruitment of Bagley. “He wasn’t going to go to UCLA and he wasn’t going to go to Duke,” Blazer testified Bland had told them. “Tony was very confident that he had Marvin locked in with USC.”
Dan Wetzel: Former NBA star and Auburn assistant Chuck Person pled guilty this morning to receiving approximately $91,500 in bribes to help steer NBA-bound Auburn players to specific advisers. Sentencing is July 9.
Court filings in a federal criminal case involving college basketball corruption link former NC State coach Mark Gottfried to being the first head coach directly connected to impermissible payments to players, sources told ESPN. According to a disclosure from federal prosecutors, former NC State assistant Orlando Early’s attorney said his client disclosed that Gottfried on two occasions gave him envelopes — containing what Early believed was cash — to deliver to star guard Dennis Smith Jr.’s trainer to ensure he signed with the Wolfpack in 2015. Smith Jr.’s trainer, Shawn Farmer, was supposed to deliver the envelopes to Dennis Smith Sr., the father of the five-star recruit, who is now a point guard with the New York Knicks.
“Thereafter, on two occasions, Gottfried handed Early envelopes, which Early understood to contain cash,” the disclosure continues. “Early in turn delivered the envelopes to Farmer for subsequent delivery to Dennis Smith Sr., the father of Smith Jr.” At some point, according to the disclosure, Gottfried “complained to Early about having to provide money out of his own pocket to the Smith family,” and “stated, in substance, that he intended to ask Adidas for help.”
Darren Heitner: Christian Dawkins will serve 6 months in prison. He must pay $28,261 in restitution. Dawkins recruited basketball players to sign with an NBA agent & was accused of giving $ under the table as an inducement. Will his sentence serve as a deterrent to other runners doing the same?
Adam Zagoria: The Bowen complaint alleges racketeering against Kansas, Louisville, NC State and Miami. Here’s some of the Kansas portion w/ texts between Self and TJ Gassnola pic.twitter.com/jLafmdioaV
Federal authorities have given NCAA officials their approval to move ahead with an investigation of alleged rules violations that came to light during the first of three federal criminal trials involving pay-for-play schemes and other corruption in college basketball, ESPN has confirmed. During last month’s trials in New York, evidence and testimony were presented that alleged potential rules violations involving coaches and players at Arizona, Creighton, Kansas, Louisville, LSU, NC State, Oklahoma State, Oregon and other programs.
In the email, Dawkins advised his partners that he had deals in place with three players who had recently turned pro — Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame, Creighton’s Justin Patton and Xavier’s Edmond Sumner. Dawkins also listed 19 “prospective players” who were either in college or high school. Among them were Alabama’s Collin Sexton, Mississippi State’s Lamar Peters, Oregon’s Troy Brown Jr., Arizona’s Rawle Alkins, Cincinnati’s Jacob Evans, Louisville’s Ray Spalding and V.J. King, Miami’s Dewan Huell (now Hernandez), LSU’s Brandon Sampson, USC’s De’Anthony Melton, Xavier’s Trevon Bluiett and Kentucky’s Jarred Vanderbilt.
After his firing following an FBI probe at Louisville, Rick Pitino is planning to use the season to immerse himself in the NBA game and hopes to become a candidate for head-coaching openings in the spring. “I just want to be a part of an organization,” Pitino told ESPN. “I want to develop young players. I want to be part of a team. I miss it terribly. I’m using this time to really study the NBA. If something opens up with a young basketball team, I’d have deep interest in it. “I think the league is going to get younger and player development will become even more important to every organization. That’s my forte. I believe I can help an organization find a pathway to success.”
Pitino resigned with the Celtics early in his fourth season in 2001 with a 102-146 record. Pitino was considered to have been overwhelmed with dual roles, which had been pro sports’ biggest coaching/executive deal to date: 10 years, $70 million contract. He resigned with nearly $30 million left on the deal. “I’m not looking for any of that (power/control) at this stage of my life,” Pitino told ESPN. “I want to develop teams and develop players and build a winner. I value analytics. I want to fit into an organization. At this stage, that’s all I’m interested in.”
Adam Zagoria: US Attorney’s statement after the Adidas verdict pic.twitter.com/WZGPbeDc3U
Two former Adidas employees and an aspiring sports agent who were charged with fraud related to secret payments funneled to a college basketball recruit were found guilty in federal court in Manhattan on Wednesday, in a case that exposed the strong influence of sneaker companies in the sport. James Gatto, Adidas’s former head of global basketball marketing; Merl Code Jr., another former Adidas employee; and an aspiring agent named Christian Dawkins were found guilty on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, after a three-week trial.
The allegations, first revealed in September 2017, laid bare what many had long assumed about college basketball at its highest levels: that its top players — who for a decade have been required to wait at least a year after high school before entering the N.B.A., and who are prohibited by N.C.A.A. rules from accepting payment beyond scholarships and related costs — were getting payments under-the-table via a murky underworld of agents, “runners” and other interested third parties. … In one instance, Dawkins, Code and Gatto worked to funnel $100,000 in four installments to the father of Brian Bowen II after Bowen, a top prospect, committed to Louisville in the spring of 2017.
Adam Zagoria: The defendants were found guilty on all 7 counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud – 3 for Jim Gatto -2 for Christian Dawkins -2 for Merl Code
Adam Zagoria: Here’s the Adidas statement on the verdict pic.twitter.com/ORPQrI5c5r
3. So far, no big-name coach has been proven to be in violation of NCAA rules. On wiretap, Dawkins and Code make it clear they don’t believe Pitino knew directly about the $100,000 scheme to pay Brian Bowen Sr. for his son to play at Louisville. It is fair in the court of public opinion to believe he should have known. “Plausible deniability,” as Code put it. There is no direct evidence, though, and it doesn’t appear any of the key participants in the deal thought he knew. Score one for Pitino.
5. Louisville remains in the most precarious position. The Cardinals were put on probation for so-called Stripper-gate on June 15, 2017. They chose not to dismiss Pitino, so he and his staff remained in place (although not the point man for the prostitutes-in-the-dorm parties, Aaron McGee). Part of the punishment was four years of probation. Just nine weeks later, Bowen Sr. testified under oath, was the payment from Johnson, the associate head coach and thus second in command of the program. That would be another major violation and falls under the repeat offender clause, which can trigger huge penalties.
Adam Zagoria: Former Adidas consultant testifies he gave $40,000 to former NC State coach Orlando Early. Court documents show the money came from a colleague of Andy Miller, the sports agent NC State disassociated itself from in 2012. bit.ly/2OmoHZu By @Adam Zagoria
Former Adidas America shoe consultant Thomas “T.J.” Gassnola’s second day of testimony in the federal trial against three men included details on how he paid those close to top basketball prospects in exchange for their commitments to schools with Adidas contracts. Deandre Ayton didn’t sign with an Adidas school, but was mentioned nonetheless. Gassnola testified Thursday in federal court that he paid a family friend of the former Arizona Wildcats standout and top NBA Draft pick $15,000 to pass along to Ayton’s mother, Andrea. Gassnola testified that he made the payment in Winter of 2015; he said Ayton was a junior in high school at the time. “I felt bad for his family and wanted to establish the relationship with his family,” Gassnola said.
Larnelle Johnson was an assistant coach for a Mexican league team when he spotted Ayton at the now-famous Jeff Rodgers basketball camp in Nassau. He told friends in San Diego about Ayton, and soon the center had relocated there to play for the upstart Balboa City prep program. Ayton eventually left the San Diego school any enrolled at Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix. Gassnola’s attempts to win over Ayton and his camp with money didn’t exactly pan out.
Chris Forsberg: Celtics coach Brad Stevens with words of support for the way assistant coach Jerome Allen has owned his legal situation. Stevens: “When you first found out what he was accused of, disappointment in what he was accused of, disappointment in what he did. But could not admire how accountable he’s been more. He’s a great leader, he’s a great person. He’s got a great family. And he made a mistake and he owned it. You saw in that statement — the first time I read it, that was about as much as you could own something. He’s been great for us. Obviously, this didn’t happen when he was a member of the Celtics. We’ll have appropriate discipline as a group but I really believe in him and I really appreciate him. I know this has been really tough on him but, like I said, he did it and so he owned it.”
Dan Wetzel: Among revelations in court this afternoon, documents suggesting Christian Dawkins paid $5,000 to Collin Sexton and another calling for $1,500 per month to Sexton, $21,000 for travel for his family and a four year job for his brother ($35,000 per year, with $5,000 annual raise).
Dan Wetzel: Documents also suggested $5,000 to Troy Brown for “Mayweather tickets” and a proposed $2,500 per month for Lamar Peters. Lot of names tossed around in documents.
Rick Bonnell: Nic Batum says he has no idea why he is on a long list of basketball names who could be relevant to the college basketball trial starting in New York. (Federal officials emphasized inclusion on that list, used in jury selection, does not imply wrongdoing.)
This week, in New York, federal prosecutors will try a case based on a disputed legal theory that makes it a federal crime to break NCAA rules. Two Adidas officials and an aspiring NBA agent face charges connected to accusations they brokered deals to pay the families of top recruits to steer players to Adidas-sponsored teams. The alleged transactions — $100,000 for one Louisville recruit, $90,000 for one Kansas recruit — underscore the tension at the heart of college basketball: Star players are worth far more to shoe companies, agents and schools than they are permitted to earn by the NCAA, a multibillion-dollar entity that enjoys nonprofit status. Absent historic changes to NCAA rules, according to economists who’ve studied the sport, this tension will remain, fueling a black market long after FBI agents and prosecutors in New York lose interest.
And so, this month in New York, federal prosecutors will try to convince a jury that three men should go to prison for conspiring to funnel amounts ranging from $40,000 to $100,000 to the families of college athletes, whose coaches and schools stood to rake in millions from their on-court performance. Adidas officials Gatto and Code and the former runner Dawkins face charges of wire fraud in connection with deals to steer recruits to Kansas, Louisville, Miami and N.C. State. According to the legal theory espoused by prosecutors, these payments defrauded the universities, which could have lost money and scholarships because of sanctions if the NCAA learned of the payments. Economists who have studied college sports have been sharply critical of the Justice Department’s decision to portray schools as victims.
Wealthier, veteran agents, with long rosters of star NBA clients, rarely offered cash up front, the coach said, instead offering a “finder’s fee” if the player made it to the NBA. Potential finder’s fees ranged from 10 to 30 percent of the agency’s income from the player over the course of his career. An NBA agent, who also agreed to discuss these dealings on the condition of anonymity, confirmed the offers the grass-roots coach described are standard in the basketball shadow economy.
Despite the negative press, Adidas kept sponsoring Gassnola and his team, the New England Playaz. Gassnola was protected, other Adidas grass-roots coaches believed, because of his business relationship with NBA agent Andy Miller. When asked why Adidas — and not Nike or Under Armour — is at the center of the Justice Department probe, several Adidas insiders gave a similar answer: because Miller, an agent with a reputation for flouting NCAA rules, gained powerful influence over the company’s grass roots. Miller’s clout at Adidas, company insiders said, was because of the fact he represented some of the brand’s biggest stars: Kevin Garnett and Chauncey Billups in the early 2000s and, in recent years, Kyle Lowry and Kristaps Porzingis.
Miller, the wealthy retired agent who personally profited from the recruiting services of Gassnola and Dawkins, declined to comment. He has not been charged with a crime, one of the many unresolved curiosities about the Justice Department investigation. This could be because Miller is secretly cooperating and providing evidence against others. Or it could be because federal prosecutors are concerned about weaknesses in their case, which is based on a controversial theory that anyone trying to pay college athletes, in violation of NCAA amateurism rules, has committed a crime.
Carter and James were brought into the project by Steve Stoute, a marketing and music executive who became passionate about the stories told in the film. The film is directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who has won two Academy Awards for documentaries, and Trish Dalton. “I’ve had the idea for many years, just seeing all the outrageous things that happen in college athletics,” Stoute said. “We’re trying to give a voice to the voiceless. I got LeBron James, the most important athlete in the world, lending his voice to help expose the NCAA.”
In some ways the documentary follows a worn path of unfairness and hypocrisy that infests the recruiting game and the NCAA as a whole. In other ways, the film finds new ground as it humanizes how the embattled governing body’s rules and actions affect lives after playing careers are over. “I would love to see this film play a meaningful part in forcing an overhaul of the NCAA. I hope our documentary ignites a conversation with those who can actually change the system,” Carter said. “More immediately, I hope we reach a lot of the young athletes working so hard for the NCAA machine.”
The University of Maryland on Friday released documents confirming that it has received multiple subpoenas in connection with the federal investigation of corruption in college basketball. The first subpoena specifically targets information regarding Maryland assistant coach Orlando Ranson and an unnamed player. It focuses on their relationship with agent runner Christian Dawkins, who previously has been charged in the probe. The second subpoena summoned Maryland officials to appear before a federal grand jury in New York on July 3.
Maryland released a statement regarding the subpoenas: “On March 15, 2018, and June 29, 2018, the University received grand jury subpoenas for documents related to the ongoing federal investigation of college basketball. The University complied with the subpoenas by providing responsive records. None of the responsive records shows evidence of any violations of applicable laws or NCAA bylaws by University coaches, staff or players. The University has cooperated and will continue to cooperate fully with the ongoing federal investigation.”
Metu’s college days weren’t without controversy. He was stripped of his captaincy and suspended for a half for punching an opponent in the groin in December. In February, he was linked to the FBI probe into bribery and corruption in college basketball. According to documents obtained by Yahoo Sports, Metu and/or his adviser, Johnnie Parker, received $2,000 from ASM Sports, an East Coast agency. Metu said he spoke to the Spurs about those potential red flags in a pre-draft interview. “It’s all behind me,” said Metu, who also received criticism from USC fans for choosing not to play with the Trojans in the National Invitational Tournament last spring to avoid injury before the draft.
Sources tell SI that in the course of conversation DeAngelo made a number of strange requests. At one point, he expressed his ambition for landing as many as 10 first round NBA draft picks. Dawkins gently explained that even the most prominent agents are especially lucky to land four or five picks in a single class. Sources tell SI that DeAngelo also forcefully suggested that LOYD funnel funds to college coaches in hopes of winning favor with NBA-bound players who were potential clients.
The fourth meeting marked the endgame. In that suite at the W, Jill revealed that she was in fact not a wealthy tech entrepreneur, but rather an undercover FBI agent. Jeff DeAngelo was not a brash New Jersey real estate magnate, but the lead investigator on the case. Dawkins was informed that his phone had been tapped for months, and hundreds of hours of wiretapped calls had been recorded. (Among the conversations, Dawkins had told the undercover agents, “You can make millions off of one kid.”) Blazer was not a benevolent, if slippery, networker. According to the charging documents, since November of 2014 he had been cooperating with federal agents in exchange for a reduced sentence in an unrelated case, and he had tipped off the FBI to Dawkins as a window into the world of college basketball corruption. On September 15, 2017, a few days prior to Dawkins’s sting, Blazer had pleaded guilty to securities fraud, aggravated identity theft, making false statements and documents and two counts of wire fraud.
While the various cases have yet to go to trial, the scandal has already endured its share of convulsive and strange twists. After allegations that Adidas brokered payments to a Louisville recruit, Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino was fired by the school in October and then promptly filed suit against the university. A full slate of college hoops stars were implicated in the scandal and accused of receiving impermissible payments, but scant few were suspended for the NCAA tournament. Andy Miller, Dawkins’s former employer, quickly renounced his NBA agent certification, but, curiously, has not yet been charged.
The FBI’s college basketball investigation appeared to possibly impact his return earlier this year. A Yahoo! Sports report released in February, citing documents obtained in the federal case, alleged Boatwright and/or his father, Bennie Sr., had accepted at least $2,000 from an aspiring agent. Metu was also linked to the report but was declared eligible by the school and continued to play for the remainder of the regular season. A school spokesman said Monday that Boatwright has remained eligible, though he did not play due to injury for the rest of the season. “Based on the available documents and multiple interviews, USC was unable to corroborate the information reported by media sources,” a school statement said. “If additional information becomes available, either through documentation or individuals willing to speak to us, we will promptly review it in coordination with the NCAA.”
Because the history has been mostly ignored, Haywood said, the NBA and NCAA keep making the same mistakes, and the FBI probe is just the natural result of those mistakes. “They have elected to omit the whole history of how this ruling came,” Haywood said. “They have taken this and decided, we won’t put a name to it, we won’t put a person to it, so it is just something out in space that happened. You can’t do anything without the history, you just can’t. By eliminating me, they get themselves — every two years, every five years, every 50 years — into the same darn thing. All they have to do and say, hey, there’s the ruling. There was a Supreme Court ruling, Haywood vs. the NBA, then you would have some history to this. Then players, coaches, they would understand what’s going on.
Haywood points out that the original founder of the NCAA, Walter Byers, tried to tear down the organization in the 1980s and 1990s, realizing that the goal of amateurism had become a sham, and it was the players who were being hurt. The fact that even the founder of the organization could not exact any changes in what he’d started should have been cause for concern long ago. “Before he died,” Haywood said, “Walter Byers was saying that it was wrong, the NCAA was wrong. The system he set up was wrong, and what he did was a very bad thing.”
Some of the big headlines in sports today press on ongoing scandals plaguing the NCAA. When asked if he thought the NBA G-League could become an alternative for young athletes not looking to play in college, Commissioner Stern was clear. “I would hope so. It’s a complete fraud the whole thing.” He continued, “I’m a harsh critic of the NCAA for taking players that they know aren’t there to learn and in many cases, don’t go to classes in their second semester. Instead they put them in online classes just to finish the year so they don’t lose their scholarships.” “So there is something very bad going on and everyone blames the NBA’s ‘one and done’ rule.” He adds, “Well the NBA doesn’t have a one and done rule; the NBA’s rules says players have to be 19; it doesn’t matter if they go to college.”
The National Basketball Players Association is investigating whether agents may have violated its regulations as it relates to the federal investigation into corruption in college basketball, the union’s general counsel confirmed. “We are actively looking into allegations about several agents,” NBPA General Counsel Gary Kohlman said. He declined further comment on the union’s inquiry. Andy Miller, who voluntarily relinquished his NBPA agent certification last year, is the one NBPA-certified agent who has been linked to the federal investigation, as the FBI raided his offices last year. Miller has not been charged, but a former employee of his agency ASM Sports, Christian Dawkins, was arrested by federal authorities last September and charged with several felonies.
It was Friday evening at The Melting Pot in Charlottesville, Virginia, just after the NBA Players Association’s Top 100 Camp broke for the night. About one mile down the road at the University of Virginia, a hand-selected group of the finest high school basketball players in America had been battling on the court. Off it, the teenagers listened to life skills lectures, courtesy of a labor union they all desperately hoped to join in a few years. At this dinner, according to expense reports and receipts that are part of evidence collected by the FBI and viewed by Yahoo Sports, were three guests of particular note: Stephen Pina, who worked as an agent for ASM Sports out of New Jersey; Edrice “Bam” Adebayo, then a 17-year-old who had just completed his junior year at Northside High School in Pinetown, North Carolina, and was in the midst of what scouts called a “standout” performance at the camp; and Eric Peartree, who was described in many media reports as Adebayo’s “mentor” or “guardian.”
Pina would later submit his expenses to ASM, including an itemized receipt, and list “Bam & Pertree(sic)” as the attendees. That doesn’t prove Adebayo or Peartree were there or that Pina picked up the full check. Maybe he lied to his bosses. Maybe they paid him their share in cash. Pina declined to answer questions from Yahoo Sports and said he would have his attorney respond to the media inquiry. Through his agent, Adebayo on Monday denied being present at a meal with Pina during the NBPA 100 camp. Attempts to reach Eric Peartree on Monday were unsuccessful.
Those documents, and the expense reports of Pina and other ASM employees, are part of the cache of evidence the FBI collected from ASM’s offices in a raid last fall during its three-year federal investigation of basketball’s black market. It led to the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York charging 10 men in a major corruption case that has rocked college athletics to its core. “The whole system is corrupt,” longtime NBA agent Keith Glass said. “It’s corruption on top of corruption.”
Ten years ago, then-prep basketball phenom Brandon Jennings decided not to take the one-and-done college route to Arizona and instead opted to play professionally in Italy for a year with a lucrative shoe contract in hand. Looking back, the eight-year NBA veteran who most recently played in China has no regrets about his move. And with the FBI now cracking down on college stars receiving extra benefits without getting paid by the NCAA, the current G League Wisconsin Herd guard believes that elite high school stars should consider playing in the G League or overseas instead of taking the one-and-done route in the “billion-dollar business” of the NCAA. “My decision was for me,” Jennings said. “I always feel bad for the kids because I always felt like the kids should get paid in college, at least something. The NCAA is a billion-dollar business. You’re telling a kid like [Oklahoma’s] Trae Young, who is killing it and you’re telling me alumni or someone else can’t take him out to a nice dinner?”
As Arizona coach Sean Miller forcibly professed his innocence on Thursday in a statement that affirmed his status with the team, a source familiar with the college hoops corruption investigation confirmed with SI that the details of a wiretapped phone call involving Miller were inaccurately reported in a story by ESPN that said Miller “discussed paying $100,000 to ensure star freshman Deandre Ayton signed with the Wildcats.”
According to the source, relevant FBI wiretaps in the investigation did not begin until 2017—months after five-star recruit Deandre Ayton had already committed to Arizona in Sept. 2016. This account is consistent with reporting by Evan Daniels of 247Sports. The recruitment of Ayton, therefore, would have not been at issue in an intercepted phone call that occurred in 2017. To that end, the source told SI what Miller clarified for the first time Thursday: Ayton is not the player on whose behalf former ASM Sports employee Christian Dawkins allegedly sought a payment from Miller, and Miller never pursued or made any payments to a recruit associated with Dawkins.
CH: What do you think about what’s going on with the NCAA? Kevin Durant: First off, they gotta stop publicizing how much money we make as NBA players ’cause it’s driving these parents and these kids crazy. So now they’re saying, oh, such and such just made $200 million on a five-year deal. What you think his parents now talk about? They’re not even worrying about the game no more, it’s like, “Oh yeah, you need to go get that.” You know what I’m saying? Whereas back in the day, I didn’t know what none of these dudes was making? I just wanted to be them. I just wanted to be like them on the basketball court. So that’s one thing, in my opinion — obviously it’s not gonna happen — but I think that’s one of the reasons why you’re going crazy around here with the cash …
Kevin Durant: And giving power to a bunch of kids. Come on, 18, 19 years old, these kids get to dictate. … They running these shoe companies, they running these coaches, they can like, blink-of-an-eye be like, nah, I don’t want to go there, you don’t got enough money for me. When you putting that much power into a kid’s hands, for one, you manipulating them and playing with them because you got more money than them. That’s messed up to me, but at the same time, these kids out here slaving for your programs and bringing a lot of money to these schools and we had $300 scholarship checks from the school — $300 a month. When I was at Texas. I don’t know what it’s like right now, but it can’t be much more.
Michael Beasley: Yeah, and it’s sad, man, because in most cases these kids don’t know what’s going on. Like, a lot of these kids are just playing and their parents are taking advantage of them. Do I think that college players should be compensated for the money, not just basketball but football also, the money that they generate the NCAA? Yes, but on how to do it, I don’t have that answer.
Former president Barack Obama shared NBA superstar LeBron James’ perspective on how to improve the NCAA, which James called “corrupt” on Tuesday in wake of multiple reports implicating major NCAA players, coaches and programs in the FBI’s ongoing investigation into illegal recruiting. Obama spoke in an an off-the-record panel at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference at MIT over the weekend, and his comments were ultimately leaked by Reason. The former president said the NBA would be smart to embrace a “‘well-structured” G-League “so that the NCAA is not serving as a farm system for the NBA with a bunch of kids who are unpaid but are under enormous financial pressure.” The former president felt that type of system “won’t solve all the problems but what it will do is reduce the hypocrisy.”
“It’s just not a sustainable way of doing business,” Obama said of the NCAA. “Then when everybody acts shocked that some kid from extraordinarily poor circumstances who’s got 5, 10, 15 million dollars waiting for him is going to be circled by everybody in a context in which people are making billions of dollars, it’s not good.”
While Van Gundy pointed out the inconsistency of those who favor one-and-done, the NCAA’s legal battle to avoid paying its players brings race even further into the discussion. On multiple occasions, the NCAA has cited Vanskike v. Peters — a case in which the judge ruled that a prison inmate could not be considered an employee of the prison — in arguing why it shouldn’t have to pay student-athletes. A recent citation has come in Livers v. NCAA, a case in which former Villanova multi-sport athlete Lawrence “Poppy” Livers argues that college athletes are employees and should be paid.
You read that correctly. The NCAA cited a case in which the court refused to hear arguments about employment status because the plaintiff was a prisoner, and thus subject to forced labor as “punishment for a crime,” the sole exception to the abolition of slavery under the 13th Amendment. Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins summed up the court’s findings in Berger v. NCAA, another case in which the NCAA used the same precedent: “The Seventh Circuit’s contorted reasoning bears repeating. College athletes are similar to prisoners economically because the ‘revered tradition of amateurism’ in college spanning more than 100 years ‘defines the economic reality of the relationship between student-athletes and their schools,’ the court wrote. As with inmates, asking any questions about who benefits from their work would ‘fail to capture the true nature of their relationship.’ In other words, amateurism is as confining and defining as jail.”
“I would love to sit down with the NCAA just to hear – no, I’m serious. Just hear about their thought process behind this and what they’re thinking. What’s the future? I’m all for the athletes. I think we need to figure something out for college as a whole.”
“I think it has to be a collective effort between NCAA, NBA – just basketball as a whole. NCAA and amateur sports have been corrupt for so long. We all know that. Whether you get caught doing it or not, it is what it is. But that’s beside the point. I think college basketball players – college athletes, period – should be compensated. You have to think about a 16-year-old kid, 17-year-old kid going to college. Yeah, they get a free education if they get a scholarship. But how are they surviving on those campuses? A lot of them can’t afford food. They’re getting in trouble for taking $10 or $20. A friend or a family member can’t give them money. It’s so many smalls things that go along with that. I just wish and hope and pray that something happens.
While he was cleared by the FBI after its six-year investigation into Michigan booster Ed Martin and his payment of players, four Wolverines (most notably Chris Webber) were found to have received more than $600,000 combined from Martin. The sanctions that followed stained the Michigan program but changed nothing of the question that remains today: Why aren’t the players who are driving these profits paid? “It really just becomes a mockery when you hear that the players who are participating can’t profit off of their likeness, can’t get a summer job, can’t go to the pros right after high school, all of these barriers,” Rose said. “An organization like the NCAA can still be classified as a 501-C3 (nonprofit organization tax classification)? That in itself allows me to understand that there definitely needs to be change – swift, fast and in a hurry.”
“So we live in a country that has profited for hundreds of years off the labor of individuals without having to pay for it,” Rose said. “So now you come full circle. Which sports are we having this conversation (about amateurs being paid) in? In football and in basketball, predominantly black sports. We’re not having this conversation about soccer players, tennis players, about golfers (who can play professionally at younger ages). No one is in an uproar about what they’re doing as amateurs. It only takes place in those two sports because that labor is now something that people are profiting on, and they want to make sure they profit on it as long as possible.
Sexton and Carter are expected to enter the NBA after their freshman seasons and are projected lottery picks in the 2018 NBA draft. Smith, Adebayo and Fultz also left college after one season to play in the NBA. The NCAA and colleges receive billions of dollars, thanks to these college athletes playing for them with only a scholarship and a stipend as their payment. So instead of a McDonald’s All-American or Jordan Brand Classic All-Star playing the one-and-done game and going to college for a year, why not just go to the G League, where the money received from agents and endorsement deals is legal? “I think that’s part of the solution toward NCAA reform,” Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said.
“It’s just not a sustainable way of doing business,” said Obama. “Then when everybody acts shock that some kid from extraordinarily poor circumstances who’s got 5, 10, 15 million dollars waiting for him is going to be circled by everybody in a context in which people are making billions of dollars, it’s not good.” Creating an alternative league for people eventually headed to the NBA “won’t solve all the problems but what it will do is reduce the hypocrisy” of pretending that all student-athletes are both students and athletes.
On Friday, ESPN reported that FBI wiretaps intercepted calls between Arizona head coach Sean Miller and former ASM sports associate Christian Dawkins, “in which Miller discussed paying $100,000 to ensure star freshman DeAndre Ayton signed with the Wildcats.” During a TV report, ESPN said that the phone call took place in the spring of 2017. The network then issued a correction, stating that the phone call between Miller and Dawkins took place in the spring of 2016. ESPN then corrected its first correction, stating that the phone call between Miller and Dawkins took place in the year 2016, removing the “spring” designation. But the timeline doesn’t add up. A source told 247Sports that Dawkins (who had his phone tapped by the FBI) and Miller had calls intercepted between the timeframe of June 19 of 2017, through Sept. 25.
Jabari Young: Gregg Popovich on #NCAA issues: “It’s not the kids, it’s the adults…” #Spurs #NBA
Vincent Ellis: Stan Van Gundy on the college basketball scandal: “The NCAA is one of the worst organizations – maybe the worst organization – in sports. They certainly don’t care about the athlete.” #Pistons.
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March 1, 2021 | 6:21 am EST Update
That even goes for Buddy Hield, who has an NBA 3-point shootout title to defend, although he was non-committal about the even. “Do you think I should go defend it?” Hield asked reporters when talking about the event. “I don’t know yet, to be honest, I’ve been having mixed emotions, you know, cover rules and especially I don’t have no time with my family. Just trying to see how the COVID rules and the boundaries are set up. No clear cut yes yet, I’ll just see in the next couple of days.” According to Hield, he received an invitation from the league to join the festivities, but he is still mulling it over.
“It was a play for me or P.J.,” Monk said. “I told [Ball] to pass it to P, and he was like, nah. I had to make something happen.” Hield, who finished with 30 points, missed a desperation heave from beyond midcourt as time ran out. Earlier Sunday night, he became the fastest player in NBA history to reach 1,000 career 3-pointers, doing so in his 350th career game. Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors was the previous fastest at 369 games.
Knicks general manager Scott Perry has been on a G-League mission presumably looking at center pieces. If the Knicks signed a free agent center they’d have to cut a player to make room. One team in contact with the Knicks said they want to hold down the fort with what they have for now.
Center DeMarcus Cousins, whose stock is low, is still a free agent after being unceremoniously waived by Houston. “That’s a Leon question,’’ Thibodeau said before the game. “We have more than enough on the roster so we’ll figure out a way. We have guys that can play multiple positions and then we’re going to have to take care of the rebounding, gang rebound. Everyone has to contribute in that area.’’
“It was individual pride,” Antetokounmpo said of joining teammate Khris Middleton in taking on the Clippers’ All-Star duo of Leonard and Paul George. “It is pride. It is an ego thing. Personally, I love that going down the stretch. “I feel like it’s greatness,” Antetokounmpo added. “When you go against the best in the world down the stretch and you are trying to get a stop and they are trying to score on you to win the game, it’s greatness developing at that moment.”