Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports delivered again early Friday morning when he provided a glimpse at how former NBA agent Andy Miller and his former associate Christian Dawkins were conducting business at Miller’s agency, ASM, and how they’ve played a role in the ongoing FBI investigation into mass corruption, bribery and wire fraud in college basketball. Dawkins was one of 10 people arrested back in September for their connection to the FBI probe, while Miller remains free, although it is believed he is cooperating with authorities. During the FBI’s year-long investigation they intercepted more than 4,000 calls and came across expense reports, balance sheets and other documentation that has proved to be incriminating for Dawkins and the 9 others tied to the federal charges.
As the latest article from Thamel revealed, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Michigan State were among the programs who had players connected to Dawkins and ASM. A few SEC programs also found members of their programs linked to the investigation. Kentucky, South Carolina, LSU, Vanderbilt and Alabama all had former or current players listed in the ASM documents seized by the FBI. Auburn, as has been widely reported since the news broke in September, is involved thanks to the arrest of former assistant Chuck Person.
Among the players linked to ASM, were Edrice ‘Bam’ Adebayo, who played for Kentucky last season before leaving for the NBA, accepted a $36,500 loan from ASM; Tim Quaterman, who reportedly received at least $16,000 while a junior at LSU; PJ Dozier, who played a major role in South Carolina’s trip to last April’s Final Four is said to have received at least $6,115 while in school; and Former Louisville commit and what could be described as the student-athlete face of the FBI probe, Brian Bowen, now at South Carolina, whose family received at least $7,000, mainly in travel expenses. Their roles and the dollar amount found in the expense reports could wind up costing their former universities were the NCAA to get ahold of the FBI documents and move forward in levying sanctions.
The report also listed Wade Baldwin, formerly of Vanderbilt, now in the NBA, as meeting with or having meals with Dawkins. Same for two current players from the SEC, in Alabama guard Collin Sexton and Kentucky forward Kevin Knox. The expense of those meals is unknown at this point and could have an impact on the rest of the season for those programs. It could also be much ado about nothing, as this past May the NCAA changed their bylaws, choosing to increase, from $100 or less to $200 or less, the limitation on the value of improper benefits for which restitution is required for designated amateurism, recruiting and financial bylaws that are not autonomy provisions.
Were the alleged meals for Baldwin, and more importantly, Sexton and Knox, to have fallen under the $200 threshold then they would only need to pay back restitution and at worst, sit out a game. Knox’s father, Kevin Knox Sr., clarified his son’s involvement with ASM, saying that he had never met Dawkins. Knox Sr. also assured that his son would be on the floor Saturday against Missouri. In his press conference Friday, Kentucky head coach John Calipari said that he expected Knox to play, stating,“At this point, I believe so, unless there’s something I don’t know.” Down in Tuscaloosa, Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said that he “anticipated” Sexton playing Saturday against Arkansas. The Alabama athletics department didn’t say otherwise, allowing Sexton to participate in practice Friday afternoon.
Now that we have tangible information, what does the NCAA do? The majority of the hours and days worth of intercepted phone calls is still under a federal protective order and there’s still documentation from ASM that hasn’t been revealed by Yahoo or given to the NCAA. There’s still a real possibility that Mark Emmert and the rest of the clueless suits in Indianapolis never see the findings of the FBI. Is a Yahoo report enough to pursue sanctions? I’d think not. Thamel reporting that Sexton and Knox had meals with Dawkins isn’t concrete evidence that those meals were paid for by Dawkins or that they ever occurred.
The NCAA has always taken the path of least resistance when it comes to levying penalties. Self-report or hand over any incriminating manuscripts in “good faith” and you’ll get hammered. Refuse to cooperate and lawyer up and your chances seem better. To this point, neither one of those seems to be in action. As stated above, Knox and Sexton will continue to play. And even if they did receive impermissible benefits in meals to Longhorn Steakhouse and Carrabba’s, it doesn’t size up to the amount of money Adebayo, Quarterman and Dozier took while in school. Kentucky, LSU and South Carolina all may have issues with that. If this came down to the vacation of wins, Kentucky would be vacating an SEC title and a heartbreaking Elite Eight loss. LSU would be finally exonerated for the embarrassment that was the 2015-16 season where they were unable to make the NCAA Tournament with the future number one pick, Ben Simmons. South Carolina would have the harshest penalty, in being asked to remove the schools first and only Final Four appearance.
I’m also failing to see the bombshell in all of this. Sure, players took money and possibly received comped meals from one agency. That doesn’t add up to criminal behavior to me, let alone cheating. A player getting a free meal does not quantify as cheating in my book. Nor does a player receiving money while in school from an agent so that he or she will sign with that agent once they leave school. That going under the guise that a coach was involved in setting that player up with an agent.
What is criminal and should be defined as cheating, is when an employee at a shoe company meets with an assistant coach of a basketball program to set up a $100,000 payment to a recruits father so that said recruit will attend the assistant coach’s school. Then when preparing to leave school, that same assistant funnels that player to agencies and receives payment for doing so. That’s criminal activity. And also, cheating.
When looking at what will happen to America’s beloved NCAA Tournament, I find it unlikely that it will be impacted. Honestly, do you seriously believe that the NCAA is going to act swiftly enough to bar programs from going to the Big Dance? Also, they don’t have the records to do so. A Yahoo article, as detailed as it was, isn’t enough to move forward or even start an investigation in this case. Particularly for an organization that isn’t equipped to do so. Exhibit A, it took the FBI taking a peek into the business of college basketball for any of these findings to come to light.
Now, some of you will say that the NCAA will worry about their bottom line and not allow for any of the name brands to miss out on their money maker and signature event. To those caught up in that conspiracy, the money has already exchanged hands. CBS and Turner made the investment and will be paying for whatever product the NCAA gives them whether they’re happy about it or not. That being said, anyone who thinks that this tournament should be for the little guys who “does things the right way”, doesn’t know a thing about what makes the tournament ‘the tournament’.
You can’t honestly think that a mid-major school is going to take real pride in winning a watered-down national championship. Whether the top players were on the take or not, they were always going to play for the schools that historically win and have the best facilities and fan support. That’s the way college athletics and the world works. The rich get richer and the poor stay poor. Loyola-Chicago can win a national championship sans Duke, Michigan State, North Carolina and Kansas in the tournament but it still won’t be 1963. Doing it the “right way” will never trump the fact that James Naismith invented basketball and brought it to Kansas, where he taught Phog Allen who taught Dean Smith, who then brought the game to North Carolina and built upon what Frank Maguire left behind. Also, the magic of the tournament for the casual viewer and all involved comes from the upsets featuring those same little guys that they want to duke it out. I can promise you Lehigh upsetting Duke is far more entertaining than Lehigh facing Vermont in the national title game.
Contrary to what Emmert believes, college basketball was never pure and can never be pure under the current model. An organization cannot make billions of dollars in a TV deal off of a sport played by “amateurs” where the coaches are also making millions, while those “amateurs” are left with nothing of tangible monetary value. The funny thing about the way Emmert views the “news” is that he believes it’s “news”. Intercollegiate athletics has always operated like this, it wasn’t until the FBI came along that we found out that how some of these programs had been conducting business was illegal. The only solution for the NCAA is to find a way to change the rules, so that what has occurred outside of the obvious illegal activity is no longer viewed as scandalous.
The worth of student-athletes at the Division I level has been known far longer than last September. The only thing that has changed is that the public now has knowledge of the exact dollar amounts being doled out. It’s time to cut the BS and acknowledge that college basketball and the other big-time revenue sport, college football, aren’t clean and adjust the rules to the 21st century. I doubt that while Emmert’s in charge that will happen but he’s a damn fool if he thinks there’s another way. Tear it down and build it back “pure” will be the likely “solution”. The issue isn’t purity. The issue is money and who isn’t getting it.