Four coaches named in alleged corruption scandal

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Four college basketball assistant coaches have been named in an alleged corruption scandal, according to documents released by the U.S. District Attorney in New York on Tuesday morning.

Arizona’s Book Richardson, USC’s Tony Bland, Auburn’s Chuck Person and Oklahoma State’s Lamont Evans were the four coaches charged with fraud and corruption.

Managers, financial advisers and representatives of a major international sportswear company are also involved in the investigation. Jim Gatto, an executive with Adidas, was arrested, as was Christian Dawkins, a former NBA agent who was fired from ASM Sports after he used a player’s credit card to run up $42,000 of charges on Uber.

The offices of ASM were reportedly raided by the FBI on Tuesday, according to Darren Heitner of Forbes. The computer of Andy Miller, who represents the likes of Kristaps Prozingis, Austin Rivers and Myles Turner, was seized, according to Heitner

Munish Sood, a financial advisor, was also among the people caught up in the charges.

Since 2015, the FBI has been investigating the criminal influence of money on coaches and student-athletes who participate in intercollegiate basketball governed by the NCAA, federal authorities said.

They said the probe has revealed numerous instances in which bribes were paid by athlete advisers, including financial advisers and associate basketball coaches, to assistant and associate basketball coaches to exert influence over student-athletes so the athletes would retain the services of those paying the bribes.

In criminal complaints, investigators said basketball coaches have the ability to provide access to the student-athletes to sports agents, financial advisers, business managers and others. Person was accused of accepting money from an agent who was trying to develop a relationship with Austin Wiley in order to sign him, a sophomore on the Tigers that was a four-star prospect coming out of high school. Richardson, Bland and Evans were accused of similar crimes.

“In exchange for bribes, Evans, Richardson and Bland agreed to direct certain student-athletes under their supervision to retain the business management and financial advisory services of Dawkins, Sood and/or [cooperating witness 1],” the documents read.

The cooperating witness was not named. In the documents released by the US Attorney on Tuesday, the witness is said to have agreed to a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission over violations he committed “on or about May 6th, 2016”. On May 6th, 2016, the SEC announced fraud charges against Louis Martin Blazer III, who founded Blazer Capital Management and who was accused of investing more than $2 million of professional athlete’s money without permission. Joon Kim, the district attorney speaking at a press conference this afternoon, said that the cooperating witness was a financial advisor that the SEC had brought charges against last year for misuse of athlete’s money.

ESPN obtained documents confirming that Blazer was the cooperating witness.

Gatto, who is the director of global sports marketing for Adidas, is alleged to have funneled $100,000 to a player that can be assumed is Brian Bowen, a freshman at Louisville. He is referred to in the documents as “an all-american high school basketball player” that committed to an Adidas-sponsored school in June. Bowen committed to Louisville, an Adidas school, in June.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino issued a statement Tuesday evening regarding the matter.

“These allegations come as a complete shock to me,” the statement said. “If true, I agree with the U.S. Attorneys Office that these third-party schemes, initiated by a few bad actors, operated to commit a fraud on the impacted universities and their basketball programs, including the University of Louisville. Our fans and supporters deserve better and I am committed to taking whatever steps are needed to ensure those responsible are held accountable.”

Adidas also released a statement.

“Today, we became aware that federal investigators arrested an Adidas employee. We are learning more about the situation. We’re unaware of any misconduct and will fully cooperate with authorities to understand more,” the statement said.

“Many such coaches have enormous influence over the student-athletes who play for them, in particular with respect to guiding those student-athletes through the process of selecting agents and other advisers when they prepare to leave college and enter the NBA,” the complaints said. “The investigation has revealed several instances in which coaches have exercised that influence by steering players and their families to retain particular advisers, not because of the merits of those advisers, but because the coaches were being bribed by the advisers to do so.”

Person was arrested in Alabama; Bland in Tampa, Florida; Evans in Oklahoma; and Richardson in Arizona.

Person, the associate head coach at Auburn University, was the fourth overall pick in the NBA draft in 1986 and was selected by the Indiana Pacers. He played for five NBA teams over 13 seasons.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.