'Dark underbelly' of NCAA hoops drags UofL under new cloud of scandal
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The University of Louisville acknowledged Tuesday it is part of the bombshell federal investigation into bribery at several major college basketball programs.
UofL Interim President Dr. Greg Postel issued the following statement at about 2:15 p.m.
Today, the University of Louisville received notice that it is included in a federal investigation involving criminal activity related to men's basketball recruiting.
While we are just learning about this information, this is a serious concern that goes to the heart of our athletic department and the university. UofL is committed to ethical behavior and adherence to NCAA rules; any violations will not be tolerated.
We will cooperate fully with any law enforcement or NCAA investigation into the matter.
Louisville is one of seven schools implicated in the scathing cash-for-talent report released Tuesday.
Charges were filed against several assistant and associate coaches at high-profile NCAA basketball programs, major sports apparel providers and some of their business associates.
FBI agents made several arrests Monday evening. Federal prosecutors announced the charges on Tuesday, following a fraud and corruption probe that stretches back to 2015.
At a news conference at about 12:15 p.m., United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Joon Kim, opened his remarks candidly.
"Coaches from some of the nation's top programs accepting bribes ... circling top prospects like coyotes," he said. "If you read the three complaints you will find yourself in the dark underbelly of college basketball."
No UofL coaches were identified by name in any of the several lengthy reports released Tuesday by the the U.S. Attorney's Office. The school itself wasn't even named, but there is enough information in the complaints for WAVE 3 News to identify UofL.
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School spokesman Kenny Klein told WAVE 3 News at 11:25 a.m. Tuesday that he was "not aware of anything at this point. We're hearing this for the first time in the last hour."
Adidas global marketing director Jim Gatto and the other defendants reportedly funneled $100,000 to the family of a high school basketball player to convince the player to sign with a "public research university" in Kentucky, the complaints said. UofL's basketball apparel is provided by Adidas. The entities have been partners for years, and just last month, they agreed on a 10-year, $160 million apparel deal that was one of the most lucrative in the history of college athletics.
Information in the complaints implicate a "Player 10," whom appears to be Brian Bowen, currently a freshman on the UofL roster, whose family received a cash gift. In July, several of the defendants met in a Las Vegas hotel room, where the FBI used a cooperating witness to record the conversation.
In that meeting, the defendants discussed how they had secured (Bowen's) commitment. One of the agents said "a rival athletic apparel company was coming with a higher number." One of the agents said he asked a coach at Louisville, identified in the complaints as "Coach 2," to secure more money from Adidas for (Bowen).
ESPN reporter Mark Schlabach tweeted Tuesday just before 3 p.m. the identity of the FBI's cooperating witness, a Pittsburgh financial adviser named Martin Blazer, who was once accused of swindling more than $2 million from clients:
The specifics of Blazer's involvement in the FBI's investigation was not immediately clear.
The complaint also said call records indicated three calls were made from Coach 2's phone number to Gatto shortly before (Bowen) committed to UofL back in July.
Coach 2 is not identified by name in the complaint, except when one of the defendants -- Brad Augustine, program director of a Florida AAU league sponsored by Adidas -- said "no one swings a bigger d*** than Coach 2 with Adidas." He continued, "all (Coach 2 has to do) is pick up the phone and call somebody, (and say), 'these are my guys; they're taking care of us.'"
The complaint does not specify whether Coach 2 is an assistant or head coach. However, the UofL assistant coach in the Las Vegas hotel room "explained that '(Coach 2) is not a guy to have his own agent already set up,' so that it would fall upon Coach 1 and another assistant coach at (UofL) to steer the athletes to certain advisors."
"Fraud, abuse and corruption of the type alleged in the charges brought today contaminate all that is good and pure around it and it has no place in college sports," Kim said.
At that same meeting in Las Vegas, the defendants discussed a future recruit expected to graduate from high school in 2019, identified in the complaints as "Player 11." Christian Dawkins, a prospective agent, explained to the group "the player we're talking about tonight is (Player 11) with (UofL)." Dawkins told the group that the player's family was demanding money, and "we're all working together to get this kid to (UofL)."
Dawkins acknowledged that (UofL) already was on probation with the NCAA, which levied the sanctions on UofL following the Katina Powell scandal. UofL is still appealing some of the penalties in that case. Dawkins "indicated that they would have to be particularly careful with how they passed money to Player 11 and his family."
The UofL coach in the room agreed, stating "we gotta be very low-key," the complaint said. Dawkins suggested that payments go through Augustine and his organization. Augustine told the group "all my kids will be (Adidas) kids."
At that point, an undercover FBI agent handed Augustine an envelope containing $12,700 in cash, according to the complaint, which then detailed how payments to the families of Players 10 and 11 have continued. WAVE 3 News is working to confirm the identity of Player 11.
Longtime Louisville sportswriter Pat Forde wrote Tuesday that if UofL's part in the scandal is confirmed, it deserves what the NCAA calls the death penalty, the harshest possible punishment that has been levied only a handful of times, most notably in 1987. Southern Methodist's tumble from grace in 1987 was big enough to merit a feature film among ESPN's popular "30 For 30" series.
Read Forde's column below:
Who Else Is Implicated?
Former NBA star Chuck Person, now an associate head coach at Auburn University, is among the assistant coaches named in the initial 32-page complaint unsealed Tuesday morning. Lamont Evans, an assistant coach at Oklahoma State, also is one of the men facing charges. Prior to his hiring at OSU in 2016, Evans spent the previous four seasons as an assistant at the University of South Carolina. Both schools appear to be identified in the complaint.
The University of Southern California and the University of Arizona also appear to be among the schools who have assistant coaches under investigation.
Emanuel "Book" Richardson (Arizona) and Anthony Bland (Southern California) are among the other assistant coaches mentioned.
"For the defendants charged today, the madness of college basketball went well beyond the big dance in March," Kim said.
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The U.S. Attorney's Office began its investigation into Person and Rashad Michel, a former NBA and NCAA basketball official whose "clothing company has a client base that consists primarily of professional athletes," according to the complaint.
The complaint also included a very telling excerpt about the two-year-long investigation:
"Since 2015, the FBI and USAO have been investigating the criminal influence of money on coaches and student-athletes who participate in intercollegiate basketball governed by the NCAA. As relevant here, the investigation has revealed numerous instances of bribes paid by athlete advisors, including financial advisors and business managers, among others, to assistant and associate basketball coaches employed by NCAA Division I universities, and sometimes directly to the student-athletes at Division I universities as facilitated by the coaches, in exchange for those coaches exerting influence over student-athletes under their control to retain the services of bribe-payors once the athletes enter the National Basketball Association ("NBA")."
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