After ten men were arrested on Tuesday, schools like Louisville take immediate and swift action
A three-year probe by the FBI was finally made public on Tuesday morning, and the first of many literal and figurative shoes to drop are causing quite a stench on an already tainted sport.
After hearing this very sad news, as a longtime fan of the sport–it makes me both feel sick and furious.
According to ESPN, CBS Sports, and other reputable media organizations, this is what we know:
The basic 411 has been stemming for decades, going back as far as Sonny Vaccaro and the shady deals with Nike involving Michael Jordan way back in the 1980’s.
Many coaches have been caught red-handed when they were paid tens of thousands of dollars (sometimes into the six figures if you can believe it) to potentially steer NBA-bound players toward sports agents, financial advisers and apparel companies.
Four assistant coaches from prominent schools hoping to reach the 2018 NCAA Tournament have caused more than a black eye at these respective schools for mostly accepting cash bribes–as brought forth in the indictment in New York:
- Chuck Person (Auburn), former NBA All-Star from the Indiana Pacers
- Emanuel Richardson (Arizona)
- Lamont Evans (Oklahoma State)
- Tony Bland (USC)
The first indictment mentions that those assistant coaches (and possibly other names that have yet to surface) all face charges involving bribery conspiracy, solicitation of such bribes, honest services fraud conspiracy, honest service fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud (across several state lines) and Travel Act conspiracy. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, each of the coaches could face a maximum sentence of 80 years in prison.
Expect the head coaches at each of those schools to be shown the door as well, including former Oklahoma State and current Illinois Head Coach Brad Underwood.
“This is unlike your typical NCAA infraction. The FBI has all of the answers to the test. The key now is, which coaches will be caught lying?”
Freddie Coleman, co-host of Freddie & Fitz, overnight Tuesday on ESPN Radio
A hotline number has been set up to add more pieces to this already complex jigsaw puzzle.
The second indictment involves a very shady man by the name of James Gatto, director of global sports marketing for Adidas.
He helped orchestrate on behalf of an unnamed “sportswear company,” by funneling “six-figure payments” to three players, who then in exchange, committed to play for particular college programs affiliated with that company.
This set of charges includes a reference to a “public research university located in Kentucky.” Merl Code, another Adidas employee; Christian Dawkins, a former NBA agent; Munish Sood, a financial adviser; Jonathan Brad Augustine, president of The League Initiative and program director of the Adidas-sponsored 1 Family AAU program; and Rashan Michel, a former NBA official who founded Thompson Bespoke Clothing, a custom clothier for athletes were also arrested as part of this complex sting.
Rick Pitino, Louisville AD put on administrative leave
At 11:36 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday morning, a report on ESPN.com confirmed that longtime Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino (who spent 16 years at the school), along with Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich were both not fired, but put on administrative leave (Coach Pitino is on unpaid leave after 770 wins in 32 years as coach, while Jurich was put on paid leave). This was largely due to the direct stemming of the program being linked to a federal investigation into fraud and corruption in recruiting.
Coach Pitino, a 1996 national champion while coaching at Kentucky, leaves after earning the most money out of all 380 plus head coaches in men’s college basketball. ESPN’s Bob Ley from Outside the Lines mentioned a figure somewhere around the $7.6 million range, of which $2.25 million came from Adidas.
“This is a great day for college basketball.”
Former Indiana and Bowling Green head coach and longtime ESPN analyst Dan Dakich, in a Tuesday interview heard on ESPN Radio and SportsCenter
A press conference Wednesday afternoon briefly detailed the charges. Interim Louisville President Greg Postel promised that a new coach will be hired with “integrity” within the next 48 hours.
Again, this is totally unrelated to the pure garbage from the last seven years:
In 2010, Coach Petino testified in a federal extortion trial involving Karen Sypher, who went to prison after trying to get money and gifts from him in exchange for keeping silent. Pitino, who is married, admitted to having sex with the woman in a closed Louisville restaurant in 2003.
Five years later, the NCAA launched an investigation into a sex-for-pay scandal organized by former Louisville assistant coach Andre McGee. The school is still on the hook that could become the first to vacate their 2013 national title and many dozens of victories during that period. He was initially to be suspended for Louisville’s first five games played in the ACC this upcoming season. This came after the school self-imposed an NCAA Tournament ban in 2016.
But Tuesday’s news trumped the others by a long shot.
The indictment also included payments of $100,000 from Adidas to the family of an unnamed player, later identified as “Player-10,” to ensure he signs with the school.
The University of Miami was also mentioned in the indictment, and there may be other schools which might be seeing many heads roll in the coming days and weeks.
October 1 typically signals the first day of practice. But it appears many men will be dropping like flies and frantically preparing from a different style of playbook…a playbook which is never pretty to look at this type of real life story puts some, if not most past Law & Order episodes to shame.
“This is big business for the shoe companies.”
ESPN analyst and former Virginia Tech Head Coach Seth Greenberg saying on Outside the Lines Wednesday afternoon
Several years ago, when I was a student in college–one of my professors showed us a docudrama from 1988 with a title that is very complex to understand and difficult to follow:
Do The Guilty Go Free?
For other names that might have dealt in this underground, very shady and dirty world–perhaps after all of these years…justice will hopefully and finally be served.
When CBS Sports signed that billion dollar deal in the late 1990’s to exclusively cover the NCAA Tournament, and the three major shoe companies (Nike, Reebok, and Under Armour) helped many coaches signing six and sometimes seven figure deals–the pure and honest nature of college basketball has been slowly eroding behind the scenes. I really feel sorry also for the families of any affected players, most of them do not even have first-hand knowledge of such covert deals.
Yes, There Will Be A Season–But Not With The Full Compliment of Players and Coaches Involved
Bottom line–ladies and gentlemen,
This is not the end of the story.
For the ladies reading, think of this as starting Chapter 2 in the novel War and Peace. Tuesday marked the end of Chapter 1.
I wonder which schools and coaches might be affected next.
To me, this feels like I have to rip up every piece of scrap paper which I was compiling most of the summer so I would have some key notes written down for the season preview and corresponding podcast.
The season is less than 45 days from starting.
If I was a sports writer for the school newspaper, SID, cheerleader, band member, or devoted fan at these so-called “institutions of higher learning”–I would be worried. Some schools in the preseason Top 30 might be seriously affected in the short term.
The final quote appropriate enough to mention from this blog reporter’s perspective comes from the first NCAA Director of Athletics, the late Walter Byers when he mentioned many decades ago a very relevant statement:
“If fans can’t trust the legitimacy of the games they’re watching, what’s the point?”
Historically speaking, this definitely pales in comparison to the early days before the NCAA enforcement division was actually being created.
Back in the early 1950’s, there was a criminal investigation that saw a massive point-shaving scandal which involved 33 players allegedly fixing 86 games at seven schools affecting 17 different states.
Time for college basketball to hit the reset button
Seriously, what will be the first things coming out of the mouths of Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery, Grant Hill, and Tracy Wolfson when the 2018 NCAA Tournament begins?
Hopefully, it will be the familiar sounds of shoes squeaking, three point shots raining from the sky, and crumpling of printer paper signifying another broken bracket in the many thousands of office pools that take place throughout the United States–strictly “for entertainment purposes only”.
I still plan to cover the season, as dark a black eye it is experiencing at this current time–and will be for months and even years to come.
As a cartoon character named the Blue Falcon mentioned triumphantly years ago with a singular purpose fully in mind:
“There’s a lesson here somewhere.”