CRAWFORD | Six thoughts on Kentucky, Louisville and the Yahoo! Sports report
A Yahoo! Sports story written from a viewing of discovery documents in the federal college basketball corruption investigation not only implicate former players from Kentucky and Louisville, but current players from several NCAA powerhouse programs.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – With all of college basketball talking about the Yahoo! Sports Friday morning exclusive, which reported that discovery documents in the federal college basketball bribery investigation implicate at least 20 NCAA Division I basketball programs and 25 players, a quick list of immediate reactions:
1). THE SCOPE OF THE INVESTIGATION IS AS ADVERTISED. Within the spreadsheets, bank records and other documents from the sports agency of Andy Miller are some of the most storied programs in college basketball – Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan State, Louisville and other major programs like Texas, USC and Alabama.
Of particular concern to the NCAA have to be current players mentioned as having received what would, under its bylaws, be impermissible payments, loans or other benefits from a sports agent. Those payments or loans would make those players ineligible not only for the NCAA Tournament, but for every game they’ve played this season.
Michigan State’s Myles Bridges, Alabama’s Collin Sexton and Duke’s Wendell Carter are among the biggest names now thrown into doubt just more than two weeks away from Selection Sunday.
2). IMPLICATIONS FOR KENTUCKY. The report cites an agency balance sheet which lists former Kentucky standout Bam Adebayo as having received a $12,000 payment while he was still in high school and later a loan for $36,500. A loan in the amount of $4,350 to former Kentucky player Nerlens Noel also is listed. Of the most immediate concern is a listing for a meeting between current Wildcat Kevin Knox and his parents with agent Christian Dawkins. It’s not against NCAA rules for a player and his family to meet with an agent. If Dawkins paid for anything in the meeting, it could provide a concern for UK. On Friday morning, Knox’s father told WLEX-18 Television in Lexington that he never met with Dawkins.
Even if the agent did pay for the meal, if the amount was $200 or less Knox would have an opportunity to pay restitution and regain his eligibility.
If true, Adebayo’s actions could wind up in UK being ordered to vacate all of its victories from last season. The same for Noel, though UK fans might be happy to vacate a NIT season. Still, it’s too early to say any of that. The school says it has opened an internal investigation, but has not heard from the FBI or NCAA.
UK has issued three statements on the matter:
From president Eli Capilouto: “As I said to our Board of Trustees this morning, we learned late last night of a report from Yahoo Sports that provides more details regarding documents related to the federal investigation of potential NCAA violations. We began immediately to conduct our due diligence, and we will cooperate fully with any appropriate authorities. That is our commitment as a university to our Board of Trustees and to the Commonwealth. I will keep you informed of any developments should they arise in this matter.”
From athletics director Mitch Barnhart: “We are aware of the report today by Yahoo! Sports. We have not been contacted by the FBI or the NCAA, but since learning of the report, we have reached out to both the NCAA and our league office. We will be conducting an internal review. At this time, we have no further comment.”
From coach John Calipari: “I have no relationship with Andy Miller or any of his associates. Neither my staff nor I utilized any agent, including Andy Miller or any of his associates, to provide any financial benefits to a current or former Kentucky student-athlete. We will cooperate fully with the appropriate authorities.”
Calipari has some experience with matters like this. Standout player Marcus Camby was found to have taken money from a sports agent and ruled ineligible, forcing the vacation of a Final Four appearance and all victories from his final season at the school. Calipari was found to have had no knowledge of the payments and was not held personally responsible in the matter, though all of the victories were removed from his record. That case, also, took place before new NCAA coach responsibility legislation was adopted.
The key in this case is whether Miller might implicate individual coaches in his interviews with federal investigators. What he has told them is not known. These documents in themselves do not allege wrongdoing by schools or coaches themselves, only payments to players.
3). IMPLICATIONS FOR LOUISVILLE. No current Louisville players are mentioned in the report. Former Cardinal Juan Palacios is listed as having received a $2,300 loan. He last played for U of L in 2007. While there technically is no statute of limitations on extra benefit violations in the NCAA, the association’s enforcement arm does have to demonstrate an attempt by the school that it knew about such payments and attempted to conceal them to move forward.
The balance sheets also showed payments to former Louisville recruit and student Brian Bowen, whose family is alleged to have arranged for $100,000 from adidas in exchange for his attending U of L.
Bowen and his family received at least $7,000 in payments, according to documents.
For Louisville, which has more ties to Miller than just those in these documents (he was the agent for Peyton Siva and David Padgett), it’s at least good that no current players are implicated in any way.
The wider view, however, shows the difficulty for Louisville of hiring a coach during these uncertain times. One of the hottest names for a lot of schools is Chris Mack, yet several Xavier names popped up in this report, which leads to questions. Mack was quick to issue a statement this morning, but for Louisville, which already is on NCAA probation, hiring a coach who could bring further NCAA scrutiny could be problematic.
4). NCAA RESPONSE. NCAA president Mark Emmert issued a release this morning after the publication of the Yahoo! story:
“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,” the statement read. “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.”
5). MITCHELL ROBINSON SIGHTING. The five-star player who signed with WKU, left school, then came back and left again, is listed as having met with Christian Dawkins for a dinner in the paperwork viewed by Yahoo! Sports. Because Robinson never played for the Hilltoppers, the school should have no liability if that’s the only involvement found.
6). IT’S ONLY THE BEGINNING. It’s important to remember that these names are only the first to drop. Andy Miller’s ASM agency is only the first to be raided, and what he might give up on other agents or on college coaches remains unknown.
As it stands at the moment, this is a case of an agency spreading money around to sign as many players as it could. All agencies, it must be assumed, do that. The question is whether schools had any agreements with Miller, or whether they were in the loop on the money from Miller’s agency to the players.
Just by receiving money from an agent, a player becomes ineligible. That has immediate repercussions on programs who have current players on Miller’s balance sheets or elsewhere.
How the NCAA will handle this with its tournament two weeks away should be interesting.
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