LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Brian Bowen has found himself in a kind of limbo since a federal investigation into corruption in college basketball was announced in late September. Nothing about that has changed since a report Thursday that the FBI has removed “investigative impediments” to the University of Louisville considering his eligibility moving forward.

Conceivably, the five-star recruit from Indiana could begin practice with the Cardinals while the school investigates new information affecting his eligibility. That, however, has not yet happened.

“His status with the team is unchanged,” a U of L spokesperson told WDRB Friday. “He is attending classes and has access to facilities to work out on his own, but is not practicing with the team.  We cannot discuss specifics of the ongoing investigation, but these elements have already been discussed publicly.”

Bowen’s father is alleged to have struck a deal with a sports agent to receive $100,000 for his son to play basketball for the Cardinals. He has been neither suspended nor declared ineligible by the school since being “withheld from NCAA activities, inclusive of practices and games, indefinitely” by U of L interim president Greg Postel.

His attorney told the Courier Journal on Thursday that Bowen has cleared the FBI investigative process, and that he looks forward to working with the school to get his client reinstated. He says Bowen neither knew about the alleged arrangement his father made, nor benefited from any payment that may have occurred, if one did occur. He has remained enrolled at U of L, and has access to the basketball practice facility, with some restrictions, and has worked out there, but not with U of L players or coaches.

The NCAA allows for players whose eligibility remains under investigation after enrollment to practice with their teams for a maximum of 45 days. If Bowen isn’t cleared to practice, it could mean that the school still views his eventual eligibility as a longshot.  


Regardless, when the FBI cleared Bowen from its investigation on Thursday, it sent the ball of his eligibility back into the NCAA’s court.

Before players arrive on campus, their amateurism must be certified by the NCAA Eligibility Center. Bowen’s presumably was certified before additional information became available in the FBI probe. At the point that investigation was made public, U of L was asked not to investigate further until the FBI had completed its process with Bowen. That point came on Thursday. So now what happens?

U of L will have to investigate the facts, after which it will declare Bowen eligible or ineligible, based upon NCAA rules. This process is usually a corroborative process with the NCAA Eligibility Center.

As with most things involving the NCAA, this latest twist provides more questions than answers. But the most pressing one begins with Bowen. Is there a chance for him to play college basketball this season?

If there were any hope that the FBI’s involvement would present cut-and-dried pictures of potential NCAA violations, this may put that to rest. The situation of Bowen coming back with a clear criminal scorecard is only of minimal help in determining whether he may be eligible to play for the Cardinals.

The test is a thorny one for the NCAA, which, it is assumed, may face many more such cases before the FBI and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York have concluded their investigation into college basketball corruption.

The FBI, it would appear by this action, feels Bowen’s involvement, if there was any, did not rise to a criminal offense. But a complaint unsealed in late September described an intercepted phone call between agent Christian Dawkins and a man fitting the description of Bowen Sr., arranging a July 13 payment of $19,500. A later call between Dawkins and his financial advisor indicated the payment had been made.

Beyond that, documents released in mid-October by Steve Pence, the attorney for fired Louisville coach Rick Pitino, reported an Oct. 12 interview with now-interim coach David Padgett in which he described then-head coach Rick Pitino’s reaction upon learning that Bowen’s family had moved into the Galt House Hotel in downtown Louisville.

The report then says Pitino, “questioned both Kenny Johnson and Padgett as to why he wasn’t informed of that fact and whether they were aware of the fact. He told Kenny Johnson to check into the matter and find out how they could afford to live in the Galt House. Padgett stated he surmises Johnson responded to Pitino on his own because Padgett was no present when Johnson provided the coach further information about the Bowens’ living at the Galt House. Padgett stated at the time neither he nor Johnson were aware the Bowens were living at the Galt House. Padgett recalls Pitino may have learned this as a result of a text message from Brian Bowen’s mother to Pitino.”

That same submission from Pitino’s attorney to the U of L athletic board included copies of text message exchanges from Christian Dawkins, an agent who is a defendant in the FBI’s case, and Pitino, purporting to show how Louisville’s involvement with Bowen began.

Given all this, U of L has plenty of information on Bowen’s recruitment that it did not have before. The school will have to consider the evidence from the FBI’s complaint, any subsequent evidence it has gleaned from materials submitted by Pitino, what it learns through an interview with Bowen’s father and attorney, and the player himself, and come to a determination on whether Bowen is eligible or ineligible.

NCAA rules have evolved in this area. Many will remember the case of Cam Newton, who continued to play despite a finding that his father had shopped him to another school for a six-figure payment.

The NCAA found that Newton was eligible for two reasons: First, he was unaware of his father’s activity and second, no one at Auburn was aware of the father’s activity. That’s going to be a difficult case for U of L to make. Bowen has maintained that he didn’t know of any agreements that anyone be paid for his services. But someone at U of L might well have been aware, given that the FBI complaint alleges that a coach from U of L made phone calls to adidas to help secure funds for the transaction. That, however, has been disputed by Pitino and his attorney, and proving it legally may be difficult.

Moreover, Newton’s case no doubt was helped by the fact that no money actually changed hands – though a violation can clearly be committed even if no money changes hands. In this case, the FBI alleges that money was exchanged.

NCAA rules state that if a player did not benefit from or know of a financial arrangement for his services, the monetary amount of the benefit is still considered. A $100,000 agreement, with $19,200 already paid, would at a minimum require a hefty restitution and a full season of sitting out. Bowen’s attorney will try to make the case that his client is the victim of actions he knew nothing about and could not fairly have been expected to know about or influence.

How the NCAA will come down on that, in this highly publicized matter, will be fascinating.

In any event, the FBI’s involvement in this particular matter, while bringing information to light, still leaves U of L and the NCAA with work to do.

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