SEATTLE – The pay-for-play scandal and FBI corruption investigation that has rocked college basketball has reached the University of Washington.
According to a Yahoo Sports report, 25 current and former college basketball players from programs such as Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky received money from former NBA agent Andy Miller and his agency ASM Sports, including former Husky star Markelle Fultz.
Fultz reportedly received a $10,000 loan from the agency, according to a balance sheet dated Dec. 31, 2015, which is an impermissible benefit and a violation of NCAA recruiting rules. According to that timeline, he received the loan after signing with UW in early November 2015 and before coming to school the next fall.
Dejounte Murray got a separate $500 loan during his freshman season. Murray’s loan could have come between March 2-25, 2016. His last game as a Husky was March 21.
Fultz played one season with the Huskies and was taken No. 1 overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in last year’s NBA draft. He did not sign with ASM and chose Raymond Brothers. He was recently back in Seattle with former coach Lorenzo Romar to attend the retirement of Isaiah Thomas’ No. 2 jersey.
Murray played the 2015-16 season at UW as a freshman before being selected in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft. He signed with Klutch Sports agency.
Miller’s bank records were reviewed by the FBI as part of its sweeping investigation of recruiting corruption.
“University of Washington athletic department officials are aware of a report alleging that a former UW men’s basketball player accepted improper benefits as an amateur,” a UW spokesperson said in a released statement. “We take these allegations very seriously, and are working to gather more information about this situation. Washington Athletics is committed to full compliance with NCAA legislation and with any investigations that may result from these allegations.”
Lorenzo Romar, the associate head coach at Arizona who coached at Washington the past 15 years, said: “This morning is the first time I’ve heard about anything like this in regards to Markelle.”
According to the Yahoo story, reporters Pat Forde and Pete Thamel, “viewed hundreds of pages of documents from the years-long probe that had federal authorities monitoring multiple targets and intercepting more than 4,000 calls across 330 days, providing a clear-eyed view into the pervasive nature of the game’s underground economy.”
As noted by Yahoo Sports, agent payments to college players would violate the NCAA’s amateurism rules and could result in retroactive penalties – and, potentially, future penalties.
What is the potential fallout for Washington, if Fultz and/or Murray are retroactively ruled ineligible by the NCAA?
At the moment, that’s unclear. In the past, teams that have committed similar offenses have been forced to vacate wins.
Future penalties could be levied against programs, which include recruiting limitations, a reduction of scholarships and a postseason ban.
The more immediate concern for the NCAA is how it’s going to handle the allegations against players on teams who will likely play in next month’s NCAA Tournament. Less than three weeks remain before Selection Sunday and Yahoo estimates the FBI probe could take years.
Last September four college coaches – Arizona’s Emanuel “Book” Richardson, USC’s Tony Bland, Auburn’s Chuck Person and Oklahoma State’s Lamont Evans – were among 10 people indicted in a fraud and corruption scheme.
The four coaches were fired. Louisville also fired Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich after the program was linked to the FBI investigation. A Yahoo story last week said information in the FBI probe could implicate as many as 50 of the nation’s top men’s basketball programs.
“This goes a lot deeper in college basketball than four corrupt assistant coaches,” Thamel reported via an anonymous source last week. “When this all comes out, Hall of Fame coaches should be scared, lottery picks won’t be eligible to play and almost half of the 16 teams the NCAA showed on its initial NCAA Tournament show this weekend should worry about their appearance being vacated.”
A list of current players who reportedly received improper benefits and their alleged cash payments includes: South Carolina’s Brian Bowen ($7,000), USC’s Chimezie Metu ($2,000), USC’s Bennie Boatwright ($2,000), Texas’ Eric Davis ($1,500) and Michigan State’s Miles Bridges ($400).
Former players who are included in the report and the payments they allegedly received: North Carolina State’s Dennis Smith Jr. ($73,500), Seton Hall’s Isaiah Whitehead ($37,657), LSU’s Tim Quarterman ($16,000) and Utah’s Kyle Kuzma ($9,500).
“There are spreadsheets detailing who got paid, how much they got paid and how much more they were planning to pay,” Yahoo said, quoting a source it said was familiar with the investigation. “The feds got everything they wanted and much more. Don’t think it will only be players who ended up signing with ASM that got paid. Those spreadsheets cast a wide net throughout college basketball. If your school produced a first-round pick in the past three years, be worried.”
The Yahoo report said that the FBI has exact dollar amounts and “intricate documentation” of payments from Miller to the families of players, along with wiretapped conversations about payment between the families of players and Christian Dawkins, a former employee with ASM Sports.
Dawkins was arrested in November and accused in an FBI complaint of joining Adidas executives in an effort to pay players to funnel them to certain schools. Dawkins was also accused of paying assistant coaches to use their influence with players to ensure they signed with ASM Sports when they turned pro.
Miller was not arrested as part of the NCAA’s investigation, but his office was raided and his computers were reportedly taken by FBI investigators.
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