Chaos erupted within the world of college men’s basketball as it was reported this morning that 10 people including 4 assistant coaches were arrested in connection with a corruption scandal. Those coaches are reported to be: Arizona’s Book Richardson, USC’s Tony Bland, Auburn’s Chuck Person, and Oklahoma State’s Lamont Evans. There will be a press conference live-streamed at 9a PDT at which time there may be more information available.
BREAKING NEWS / NBC: The FBI has arrested several NCAA asst. basketball coaches in a corruption scheme. Presser @ 12n with U.S. Attorney— Tom Winter (@Tom_Winter) September 26, 2017
4 coaches named in alleged corruption scandal: Chuck Person (Auburn), Lamont Evans (OK State), Book Richardson (Arizona), Tony Bland (USC).— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) September 26, 2017
Among those also involved in the suit are Jim Gatto, director of global sports marketing at Adidas, Merl Code, the head of Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League as of 2013, and Christian Dawkins, an NBA agent who was recently fired from ASM Sports for charging approximately $42,000 in Uber charges on a player's credit card.
There are multiple charges alleged in the document. The first is that members of the suit paid bribe money (as much as $150,000) to recruits or their families in order to get them to attend “University-6 and University-7”. While the court documents only list them as such, they give enough details to identify the schools are Louisville and Miami. That caused the students to receive a scholarship for which they were ineligible by virtue of accepting the bribe payments. This is a count of wire fraud conspiracy although they were also charged with two other counts of wire fraud plus one count of money laundering.
The second complaint which includes the coaches for USC and Arizona can be found here.
USC’s Tony Bland is said to between June and September of 2017 have taken benefits “in excess of $10,000 under a Federal program involving a grant, contract, subsidy, loan, guarantee, insurance, and other form of Federal assistance.” These were “intended to influence and reward Bland in connection with the business of University-5” (presumably USC). He also met with an undercover FBI agent in Las Vegas where Christian Dawkins picked up $13,000 intended for Bland and then left the room with Bland.
Arizona’s Book Richardson was allegedly paid $20,000 “some of which Richardson appears to have kept for himself and some of which he appears to have provided to at least one prospective high school player in order to recruit Player-5 to University-4. In exchange for the bribe payments, Richardson agreed to use his influence over the student-athletes he coached to pressure them to retain Dawkins and Sood as a manager and financial adviser respectively.” University 4 is certainly University of Arizona and the timeline stated for Player 5 makes them fairly easy to identify.
Richardson was told by Dawkins “use that money that you got from him to help you recruit, do whatever, or [expletive]-ing just go on vacation with it.”
The total charges for the coaches include wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, travel act conspiracy, honest services wire fraud, and solicitation of bribes and gratuities by an agent of a federally funded organization.
So what does all of this mean for UW?
It seems almost certain that Arizona and USC are going to be hit with sanctions. I’m sure that both organizations will try to self-impose a loss of scholarships or something to avoid further charges but this could be big. In my analysis, Arizona and USC both have teams capable of competing for a Final-4 this season. A post-season ban would be devastating to either program. If they get hit with something akin to USC in football it could leave a wide open power vacuum for the Huskies, Oregon, and UCLA to jump through.
However, it’s important to remember that this is not the NCAA bringing this forward. This is the FBI. The people named in these cases are going to jail if found guilty. The NCAA can come in and sanction further but the FBI is handling the primary investigation.
USC recently received verbal commitments from Kevin Porter Jr, and J’raan Brooks who were the top two prospects in the state of Washington for the class of 2018. It’s uncertain whether these charges would do anything to change their mind and back away. Obviously, Washington fans will remember that Lorenzo Romar is now an associate head coach at Arizona. Whether he or Sean Miller had any knowledge about Richardson’s actions will be something to keep an eye on as this unfurls.
The influence of shoe companies in guiding recruits to schools has been a poorly kept secret for years. If a player’s AAU team is sponsored by Nike the odds of them ending up at a college associated with Nike go up tremendously. However, until now that was rumor and guesswork. Now there is proof. Stay tuned for more details.