The U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of New York dropped a bombshell on the college basketball world Tuesday morning.
Ten people, including four assistant coaches at major programs, financial planners, agents and decision-makers at Adidas, were arrested on fraud and corruption charges.
And frankly, those ten people are not the big deal.
This is a network of influencers that got caught up in the fallout when a financial planner that became a cooperating witness after he was caught by the Securities and Exchange Commission misusing more than $2.3 million of professional athlete’s money that he was charged with investing.
That financial planner, who is named Louis Martin Blazer III, and a runner named Christian Dawkins allegedly worked with these four assistant coaches to line up potential clients for the agency that Dawkins worked for. “Worked with” is a friendly way to phrase it; Dawkins and Blazer, along with another financial planner, would allegedly line up bribes for the coaches in order for them to exert their influence on the athletes they coach. For a measly $2,000, you can (allegedly) get a meeting with a prospective client during a team’s road trip to West Virginia!
That’s not all that was in the three complaints that were filed on Tuesday.
Blazer was also in the room, along with an undercover FBI agent, when an alleged deal was struck between Jim Gatto, a powerful executive with Adidas, and Louisville coaches that – again, allegedly – facilitated the commitment of Brian Bowen, a five-star prospect, to the Cardinals. Louisville is sponsored by Adidas.
But that’s not what makes this burgeoning scandal such a black eye for the sport of college basketball.
This, from a still-undercover FBI agent, is: “Because this affidavit is being submitted for the limited purpose of establishing probable cause, it does not include all of the facts that I have learned during the court of the investigation.”
This, from U.S. Attorney Joon Kim, is, too: “Our investigation is ongoing. And we are currently conducting interviews.”
The FBI already has recordings. They have video tapes. They had an undercover agent embedded with Blazer sitting in on these meetings. They have hard evidence. This isn’t sloppy. There is no guess work here. There is a reason the Feds almost always get a conviction.
What else do they know?
What other coaches do they have on tape?
What other deals do they have on video?
Because the hard truth is this: Dawkins did not deal with just four coaches. Gatto did not deal only with Louisville. This may only be the beginning, and those that were arrested today haven’t even been interrogated yet. Blazer likely won’t end up being the only person involved in this investigation to become a witness.
The question now is whether or not this is something that the public at-large is going to be able to come to grips with. None of this information is new. We’ve known that shoe companies play a role in where many of the elite talents end up going to college. We’ve known that agents have relationships with different coaching staffs and AAU programs. And we’ve known that the NCAA’s artificial attempts to put a stop to basic economic principles – supply and demand, capitalism – and human instinct – greed – were always doomed to fail.
Now look at the schools that have been caught up in this scandal already. Book Richardson was an assistant coach at Arizona, who is a preseason top-three team in college basketball. USC, where Tony Bland is an assistant coach, is a preseason top-ten team. Lamont Evans is now an assistant coach at Oklahoma State, but he was previously at South Carolina, who is tied up in the complaints just five months after reaching their first Final Four. Auburn, a school that has a scandal-plagued history with the NCAA, is where Chuck Person is employed by Bruce Pearl, who has his own NCAA history to deal with.
And that is before we get into Louisville, an historically-great program with a Hall of Fame head coach that is currently, as we speak, in the midst of an appeal regarding the NCAA sanctions they were given for a scandal that involved an assistant coach paying for hookers and strippers for recruits. That could end up costing Louisville their 2012 Final Four and their 2013 National Title.
North Carolina isn’t mentioned in any of the complaints, but they are the reigning champions and currently facing their own NCAA ordeal, one that could cost them the 2005 national title.
This is college basketball
This is how it works.
And for those involved, this is only the start.
In the immortal words of Lester Freamon, when you follow the money, you don’t know where it’s going to take you.