As the 2018 edition of “March Madness,” the premier, billion-dollar US college basketball tournament comes to a close on April 2 in San Antonio, Texas, what’s rarely mentioned in the ballyhoo is the latest US college basketball scandal. The media blackout can be contrasted to the hysteria over Russian Olympic athletes, although both cases allegedly involved organized cheating. Further, one of the targets of the US investigation is the German Adidas sportswear monopoly while not a word is breathed about its competitors such as Nike, etc. It is a typical case in which the real perpetrators, who are the people at the top of the corporate university organized in the NCAA, a sports cartel, are cast as the victims who have been taken advantage of. And the actual victims, who are the young high school and college athletes at the very bottom of the system, are cast as the perpetrators.
Reporters Pete Thamel and Pat Forde of “viewed hundreds of pages of documents” they say detail payments from people at the centre of the scandal.
(February 23) – Documents and bank records obtained in discovery during the federal investigation into the underbelly of college basketball detail in meticulous fashion the expenditures of prominent former NBA agent Andy Miller, his former associate Christian Dawkins and his agency, ASM Sports. They include expense reports and balance sheets that list cash advances, as well as entertainment and travel expenses for high school and college prospects and their families.
Yahoo Sports viewed hundreds of pages of documents from the years-long probe that had federal authorities monitoring multiple targets and intercepting more than 4,000 calls across 330 days, providing a clear-eyed view into the pervasive nature of the game’s underground economy.
While three criminal cases tied to the investigation may take years to play out, the documents viewed by Yahoo revealed the extent of the potential NCAA ramifications from the case. The documents show an underground recruiting operation that could create NCAA rules issues – both current and retroactive – for at least 20 Division I basketball programs and more than 25 players.
The documents tie some of the biggest names and programs in the sport to activity that appears to violate the NCAA’s amateurism rules. This could end up casting a pall over the NCAA tournament because of eligibility issues. There’s potential impermissible benefits and preferential treatment for players and families of players at Duke, North Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, Michigan State, USC, Alabama and a host of other schools. The documents link some of the sport’s biggest current stars – Michigan State’s Miles Bridges, Alabama’s Collin Sexton and Duke’s Wendell Carter – to specific potential extra benefits for either the athletes or their family members. The amounts tied to players in the case range from basic meals to tens of thousands of dollars.
NCAA president Mark Emmert released a statement to address the latest developments in the corruption probe:
An ASM balance sheet in the hands of federal investigators shows accounts through Dec. 31, 2015, with the subheading, “Loan to Players.” It listed several who were in high school or college as receiving four-figure and five-figure payments from ASM Sports. Among the largest listed loans:
- Dennis Smith, who would go on to play at North Carolina State in 2016-17, received $43,500 according to the documents. Another document headed “Pina,” for ASM agent Stephen Pina, says Smith received a total of $73,500 in loans, and includes notes about “options to recoup the money” when Smith did not sign with ASM.
- Isaiah Whitehead, at the time a freshman at Seton Hall, received $26,136 according to the documents. The “Pina” document says Whitehead received $37,657 and was “setting up payment plan.” Whitehead signed with ASM but later left the agency for Roc Nation.
- Tim Quarterman, at the time a junior at LSU, received at least $16,000 according to the balance sheet.
- Diamond Stone, at the time a freshman at Maryland, received $14,303 according to the documents.
- A listing that refers to “BAM” for $12,000 is later identified in the documents as Edrice “Bam” Adebayo, who would go on to play at Kentucky in 2016-17. He did not sign with ASM. There’s a later reference to Adebayo that says he received $36,500. “Bad loan,” reads the document.
- Markelle Fultz, who would go on to play at Washington and become the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft, received $10,000 according to the documents. He did not sign with ASM.
“We learned of the report this morning and it is the first we’ve heard about this information,” North Carolina State director of athletics Debbie Yow responded Friday when contacted by Yahoo Sports. “The report involves an agent N.C. State disassociated with in 2012. Of course, we will fully cooperate with any investigations or inquiries.”
Yahoo Sports also reached out to officials at Seton Hall, Maryland, Kentucky and Washington. They all declined comment or did not return correspondence.
In addition, Dawkins filed expense reports seeking reimbursement for thousands of dollars that he reported as being paid to college and high school players and their families. Several players, families of players or handlers received more than $1,000 in payments from ASM Sports before turning professional:
- Current USC player Bennie Boatwright and/or his father, Bennie Sr. (According to documents, they received at least $2,000.)
- Current USC player Chimezie Metu and/or adviser, Johnnie Parker. (According to documents, they received $2,000.)
- Current Texas player Eric Davis. (According to documents, he received $1,500.)
- Current South Carolina player Brian Bowen, who was ensnared in the initial federal investigation and started his career at Louisville last fall until the school withheld him from competition. His father, Brian Sr., also received money, according to the documents. (Dawkins’ expense reports also list more than $1,500 in plane tickets for Bowen, his father and his mother. He and his family received at least $7,000 in benefits, according to the documents.)
- Former Utah star Kyle Kuzma received at least $9,500 while in school, according to the documents.
- Former South Carolina player P.J. Dozier received at least $6,115 while in school, according to the documents.
- Former Xavier player Edmond Sumner and/or his father, Ernest. Documents show they received at least $7,000 in advances while Edmond was in school.
- Former Wichita State player Fred VanVleet. Documents show he received at least $1,000.
- Former Clemson player Jaron Blossomgame received a payment by Venmo while in school for $1,100 according to the documents.
- Apples Jones, the mother of former Kansas player Josh Jackson, received $2,700 according to documents.
Among those receiving hundreds of dollars in advances, according to Dawkins’ expense reports:
- The mother of current Michigan State player Miles Bridges.
Additional Dawkins expense reports list meals and meetings with players or their families while in college or high school, and before they turned pro. While small amounts, these could be categorized as extra benefits under NCAA rules. It appears Dawkins paid for the meals, which could be an important distinction.
“There’s nothing wrong with meeting with an agent,” said Atlanta-based lawyer Stu Brown, a veteran of representing schools and coaches in NCAA compliance cases. “But then it becomes a question of who pays for the meal.”
Among the players and/or families who are listed as meeting with or having meals with Dawkins:
- Current Alabama player Collin Sexton.
- Current Duke player Wendell Carter.
- Current Kentucky player Kevin Knox.
- Former North Carolina player Tony Bradley.
- Former Creighton player Justin Patton.
- Former Texas player Prince Ibeh.
- Former Notre Dame player Demetrius Jackson.
- Former Vanderbilt player Wade Baldwin.
- Former Virginia player Malcolm Brogdon.
- Former Iowa State player Monte Morris.
The breadth of names, schools and current players could offer a vexing test for both university compliance offices and the NCAA’s enforcement division. The sheer number of potential cases and varying degrees of potential violations are vast. There’s also an overriding factor of the ongoing criminal investigations. A complicating facet to it will be the NCAA’s potential inability to view key documents related to this case, because those details not in the criminal complaints are sealed under protective order. In terms of eligibility, the NCAA and the institution may be prohibited from interviewing people associated with the case because of the parallel criminal cases. (The initial onus to decide is almost always on the school in an eligibility case.)
No one is certain how the NCAA enforcement office would potentially handle the cases. The NCAA has been in constant contact with the feds but so far has had minimal direct involvement with the case, as it has been careful to respect the boundaries of the criminal investigations. The likely scenario, according to Brown, would be for the schools to assess the credibility of what’s in the documents and the severity of the potential violations.
“There’s potential for chaos, as it depends on the number of cases and the amount of information that’s released,” Brown said. “There could be inconsistency as a subset of chaos, as different schools may very validly assess the credibility of [the cases] differently.”
Yahoo did not view all of the documents in the three criminal cases tied to the investigation, but the records show an uncommon amount of detail for activities that have come under federal scrutiny.
For example, the expense reports have hundreds of lines like:
- Feb. 10, 2016: “Flight for Brian Bowen mom. Flight for Brian Bowen. Flight for Brian Bowen dad.” They totaled more than $1,500.
- Feb. 1, 2016: “Advance to Apples Jones (Josh Jackson) $1,700.”
- Jan. 13, 2016: “ATM withdrawl: Advance to Fred Van Vleet $483.”
- May 3, 2016: “Redwood Lodge. Lunch w/Miles Bridges Parents. $70.05.”
- May 3, 2016: “ATM Withdrawl: Miles Bridges mom advance. $400”
According to the documents, Dawkins has dinners listed with plenty of boldface names in the sport – Tom Izzo, “Villanova coaches,” Fultz and the family of wayward five-star prospect Mitchell Robinson.
Along the way, a portrait emerges of the inner-workings of the office of Miller, who relinquished his NBA Players Association agent certification in the wake of the probe. Miller has yet to be charged in the case, and it’s widely believed he’s cooperating with the government. Dawkins’ lawyer, Steve Haney, told Yahoo Sports earlier in the week it was “utter hypocrisy” that an underling like Dawkins and the four assistant coaches were charged in the case and their superiors have gone unscathed. Haney added on Thursday night in an email statement: “These are college eligibility issues and agent licensing issues, not matters of national security that deserve this level of FBI involvement and taxpayer resources…..it has reached a degree of being ridiculous.”
Dawkins, the 24-year-old former business associate, was arrested on Sept. 26 and faces felony charges of wire fraud and bribery in two of the three criminal cases tied to the investigation. He ended up on federal wiretaps and, soon after the case broke in late September, his rise became a cautionary tale for how vulnerable top coaches and programs are to the agent world.
Yahoo Sports reached out to a dozen programs tied to the documents late Thursday. Only Xavier coach Chris Mack elected to release a statement. He said: “I have no relationship with Andy Miller or any of his associates. He plays no role in the recruitment of potential student athletes on Xavier’s behalf. Beyond that, our staff has never created a path for him to foster a relationship with any of our student-athletes while enrolled at Xavier. Any suggestion that I or anyone on my staff utilized Andy Miller to provide even the slightest of financial benefits to a Xavier student-athlete is grossly misinformed. We are prepared to cooperate with any and all investigations at any level.”
With an ongoing investigation, the chance looms there could be more charges and arrests. So far, four former assistant college basketball coaches have been arrested: Tony Bland of USC, Chuck Person of Auburn, Emanuel Richardson of Arizona and Lamont Evans of Oklahoma State. Six other assorted participants in the basketball underworld also have been arrested: Dawkins; former sneaker executives James Gatto and Merl Code; financial adviser Munish Sood; clothier and former referee Rashan Michel; and Florida AAU coach Brad Augustine. Charges against Augustine earlier were dismissed without explanation.
The case has also cost Louisville coach Rick Pitino his job, as the school parted ways with the Hall of Famer soon after the details of the program’s involvement in a six-figure agreement to sign five-star recruit Brian Bowen went public. Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich also was dismissed. At Auburn, two players and two members of the basketball support staff have been suspended. USC is withholding star point guard De’Anthony Melton from competition this season as well.