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Violation of sports agent laws tough for states to prosecute

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The complex schemes to get first dibs on teenage athletes with pro potential can resemble the drug trade.

There are sophisticated mazes of runners acting as go-betweens separating athletes from unscrupulous sports agents and financial advisers. Unraveling those ties to get at the corruption in college sports takes time, money and dedicated manpower — resources often in limited supply for authorities seeking to enforce sports agent laws that exist in at least 40 states.

These laws are designed to regulate agents’ conduct, deter them from providing college athletes with eligibility-jeopardizing improper benefits and punish violators. But state-level investigators and prosecutors face a dilemma of how these cases fit in when violent crimes and high-level felonies fill court schedules as clear priorities.

“If (lawmakers) decide something’s a high-level felony, that’s going to get more attention,” said Jim Woodall, a North Carolina district attorney whose office got a criminal conviction under the law this year. “And in these athlete agent cases, what we’re usually looking at is a Class I felony, which is the lowest we have in North Carolina.

“Even though it’s a felony, it’s still a very low-level felony and we can’t justify the resources and time it would take to prosecute those cases when we have other higher-priority cases that we have to deal with.”

The recent federal fraud and bribery scandal that rocked college basketball led to charges in September against 10 people, including four power-conference assistant coaches. Eight defendants face charges carrying a maximum 80 years in prison while two face up to 200 years, though they likely would face sentences measured in years rather than decades if convicted.

Arizona and Southern California, which had assistant coaches charged in the scandal, are ranked No. 3 and No. 10 respectively in The Associated Press preseason Top 25 poll that had Duke No. 1. Two other schools entangled in the federal probe, No. 13 Miami and No. 16 Louisville, are also ranked.

The charges against the assistants came amid an ongoing two-year investigation that included wiretaps and help from a cooperating insider .

The investigation showed how much work goes into untangling those murky connections. It also showed that authorities possess results-producing tools — such as search warrants and subpoenas — the NCAA just doesn’t have.

That explains why two major figures in college sports — Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford and Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey — recently told The Associated Press they support authorities pursuing these cases.

“There’s clearly a role for the states,” Sankey said.

Swofford would prefer a federal law instead of relying on states.

“It’s understandable that it’s difficult,” Swofford said. “It’s one thing to have the law. It’s another thing to really put it into service, so to speak, because of the lack of resources and manpower at the state level.”

In North Carolina, Woodall’s office is still prosecuting cases investigated by the Secretary of State’s office since 2010 into whether agents or runners broke state law by providing Tar Heels football players with improper benefits . The stiffest penalty so far came in a plea deal for former NFL agent Terry Watson, who received probation, a $5,000 fine and a suspended jail sentence.

It’s hard to find many examples nationally of criminal prosecution for violations of the Uniform Athlete Agents Act — Woodall can’t name another. A version of the UAAA exists in at least 40 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. That’s according to the Uniform Law Commission (ULC), an organization that works to standardize state laws.

There have also been separate agent laws in California, Michigan and Ohio, according to the NCAA.

Woodall said North Carolina authorities have notified other states of relevant information from their investigation, but believes “most of them just don’t pursue these criminally.”

“There was at least one state when we contacted them,” Woodall said, “they said, ‘We do pursue these things’ but … they had something like a $25,000 fine associated with it, and they just collected the fines.”

The Uniform Athlete Agents Act’s structure and penalties can vary from state to state. Created in 2000, it typically requires agents to register with states and prohibits them from luring collegiate athletes into contracts by providing them money, gifts or other items of value.

There have been efforts to create harsher penalties.

The ULC strengthened the act in 2015 by broadening the scope of who falls under its requirements and recommending a higher financial penalty. The changes include requiring schools to report violations to authorities, potentially leading to more prosecutions.

Work is underway to get state legislatures to adopt the updated act. It has been enacted in eight states and introduced in seven others this year, according to the ULC.

Dale G. Higer, who helped craft the revised act, hopes headlines from the federal case can help beef up the state laws. His goal: have the updated act adopted in more than half the states by 2020.

“I think part of it depends on how far the legislatures want to go in terms of penalties for violating the act,” said Higer, an attorney from Boise, Idaho. “To me, the more serious ones should be felonies where jail time would be the result of violating the act. But some legislatures may not want to go that far.”

Alabama and Tennessee adopted the updated act last year. Alabama deputy attorney general Brent Beal and Tennessee Secretary of State’s office spokesman Adam Ghassemi told the AP that officials sought to regulate more than simply agents.

“They broadened that,” Beal said, “which we hope will … give it more teeth and to actually get people that have done things to ensnare student-athletes into something that they wouldn’t have knowingly gotten into.”

Ghassemi declined to comment on past or current cases, noting the Tennessee office is authorized to investigate and “assess appropriate civil penalties” outlined in the statute.

“We can affirm that we have exercised these powers under the Act,” Ghassemi said in an email. “The good news is that we have a large slate of athlete agents who are registered with our office, and we believe that the vast majority of them are acting in good faith and following the law.”

But there is enough unethical agent conduct that schools are desperate for help.

Athletics officials from 66 schools in 32 states — including numerous power-conference programs — and five NFL agents signed onto a 2013 memo pushing for stronger penalties and a broader reach in the UAAA’s update. The NCAA and former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne also issued statements supporting it.

“I think law enforcement should be involved,” Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey said. “I mean, there’s no question about it. And of course law enforcement sure is involved now, aren’t they? … Yeah, if there can be another layer there, there should be. Because it’s criminal activity, it really is.”

Whatever happens in courtrooms, Tennessee basketball coach Rick Barnes said it comes down to individuals because no law plugs every hole.

“I’ve also been in it long enough to know that if people want to get to somebody,” Barnes said, “they’re going to figure out a way to try to get to somebody.”

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AP Sports Writers Steve Megargee in Nashville, Tennessee; and John Zenor in Montgomery, Alabama; contributed to this report.

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Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter @aaronbeardap

VIDEO: Former Michigan athletes Austin Hatch and Abby Cole tie the knot

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The life of former Michigan basketball player Austin Hatch has not been without its challenges, as during his pre-college years he survived two separate plane crashes that took the lives of his parents, a stepmother and two siblings.

Hatch’s scholarship offer to Michigan was honored by head coach John Beilein despite the impact that the crashes had on Hatch physically, and Hatch would go on to earn his degree and land a job at the corporate office for Domino’s. This past spring, Hatch was honored during the team’s Senior Day festivities.

By that point Hatch was already engaged to Abby Cole, who played volleyball at Michigan from 2013 to 2016. And over the weekend, the two tied the knot in what was a highly emotional day for all involved. Below is a video of their wedding day, which was chronicled by Derek Postma.

Congratulations and best wishes to Abby and Austin on their marriage.

Arizona lands Cornell forward Stone Gettings for 2019-20 season

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Arizona landed its first addition for the 2019-20 season on Monday, as an Ivy League power forward revealed his intention to join Sean Miller’s program as a graduate student.

6-foot-9 forward Stone Gettings, who averaged 16.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game at Cornell last season, picked Arizona over Stanford and Vanderbilt according to Evan Daniels of 247Sports.com. A second team All-Ivy selection, Gettings is on course to graduate from Cornell in December. Instead of using his final season of eligibility at Cornell, Gettings will sit out this season before playing at Arizona.

Gettings does have a connection to the Arizona program, as one of his high school teammates was former point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright. The addition of Gettings will give Arizona a front court player who can score around the basket and from the perimeter, as he shot nearly 37 percent from beyond the arc last season.

Gettings isn’t the first Ivy League player to make his decision regarding a new school well in advance of his being able to move as a grad transfer, as former Yale point guard Makai Mason took a similar approach. Mason, who missed the entire 2016-17 season with a torn ACL, announced prior to last season that he be joining the Baylor program as a grad transfer for the 2018-19 campaign.

Not counting Gettings, Arizona has four scholarship front court players on its current roster who will have eligibility remaining in 2019-20, in current junior Chase Jeter, sophomores Emmanuel Akot and Ira Lee and freshman Omar Thielemans.

Bill Self: Silvio De Sousa’s eligibility not in jeopardy ‘at this stage’

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One of the biggest question marks heading into the 2018-19 season for the Kansas Jayhawks is the eligibility status of Silvio De Sousa.

If you’ve forgotten, a player that is believed to be De Sousa was referenced in a second round of indictments handed by the FBI. In those documents, De Sousa’s guardian is alleged to have asked an Adidas rep for at least $20,000 to repay a rival apparel company for a payment that was made to secure De Sousa’s commitment to another school. Prior to a surprise commitment to Kansas, De Sousa was long considered a Maryland lean. His AAU program and high school team were both sponsored by Under Armour, whose flagship program is Maryland.

According to Kansas head coach Bill Self, at this point De Sousa is still eligible.

“Nobody at this stage has given us any information that he could be in jeopardy at this stage,” Self said.

This is not surprising.

The way that I would expect this to play out is similar to the way it played out for players that were referenced in the indictments that came down last fall. Kansas is going to string this thing along until we get to a point in time close to the start of the season, when they will announce that De Sousa is being held out of competition. It is better for Kansas to bite the bullet and play without De Sousa than it would be for them to risk knowingly suiting up a player that can be retroactively ruled ineligible.

That sucks for De Sousa.

The good news for Kansas, however, is that Udoka Azubuike is back, as is Mitch Lightfoot, while both Dedric and K.J. Lawson will be eligible as they add freshman David McCormack. There is more than enough frontcourt depth to withstand the loss of De Sousa.

VIDEO: The #ShiggyChallenge has reached college hoops with Loyola’s coach showing his skills

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New Loyola-Maryland head coach Tavaras Hardy became the first college basketball head coach to get in on the Shiggy Challenge, as he posted this video to twitter on Tuesday morning:

What is the #ShiggyChallenge?

It’s the latest viral dance, which started just two weeks ago when an online personality named Shiggy posted himself dancing to Drake’s “In My Feelings” on Instagram:

#Mood : KEKE Do You Love Me ? 😂😂😂 @champagnepapi #DoTheShiggy #InMyFeelings

A post shared by Shoker🃏 (@theshiggyshow) on

From there, it took off, with everyone from Odell Beckham Jr. to James Harden trying to prove themselves capable of taking down the #ShiggyChallenge.

And now Tavaras Hardy is doing it.

The end.

Takeaways from the UAA Challenge: Nico Mannion and Josh Green are must-see, Anthony Edwards tops 2020

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EMERSON, Ga. — Although the Peach Jam was huge focal point of the first evaluation period, Under Armour had themselves a solid event with the UAA Challenge just north of Atlanta. With plenty of signature matchups and five-star talents, there were a lot of things to watch during a brief stop there during the first live evaluation period.

Here are some things to watch with the UAA, when they’ll be the focal point during the third live evaluation week as they host the UAA Finals in Las Vegas next week.

NICO MANNION AND JOSH GREEN aRE THE BEST 1-2 PUNCH IN THE UAA

Over the last few years, the duo of Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis have built a big reputation in the UAA. Deservedly so. But, over the next few weeks, the West Coast Elite duo of point guard Nico Mannion and Josh Green will be more fun to watch.

While the duo of Antoine and Lewis could end up being better long-term prospects (that’s a debate for another time), the duo of Mannion and Green have a unique chemistry playing with each other that Antoine and Lewis can lack at times since they play such similar positions.

Both Mannion and Green made major waves this weekend in the UAA Challenge.

Confirming to NBCSports.com that he intends to reclassify into the Class of 2019 from the Class of 2020, Mannion looked like he was ready to make the leap into college hoops. Second in the event in assists per game, Mannion had 38 of them over a six-game span (6.3 per game) and only had four turnovers in 164 minutes of action.

Also shooting 59 percent from the field and 83 percent from the free-throw line on his way to 15.8 points per contest, Mannion was incredibly efficient. He showed court savvy, athleticism and a solid perimeter jumper. Mannion has Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Marquette, Oregon and USC hard after him as he will be an intriguing point guard to watch during July.

Green, a 6-foot-6 two-way wing, was also incredibly efficient as he shot 71 percent from the field and 60 percent from three-point range on his way to 18.0 points, 3.1 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game. With four or more assists in four games, Green has natural floor vision and passing ability to go along with his scoring prowess. After showcasing a shaky perimeter jumper at times in the past, Green has worked with a trainer the past few months to become more consistent from deep. Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, UCLA, USC and Villanova are some of the schools that Green mentioned to NBCSports.com as being in the mix.

Both Green and Mannion are already five-star prospects. It’ll just be interesting to see them close out the live period the next two weeks because they have a chance to make some major noise.

ANTHONY EDWARDS HAS A CHANCE TO BE 2020’S BEST

The Class of 2019 doesn’t have a lot of star power in terms of No. 1 quality players — my colleague Rob Dauster went over that yesterday — but there seem to be a few worthy contenders in the Class of 2020.

Among them includes 6-foot-5 shooting guard Anthony Edwards. The Atlanta native was one of the must-see players of the first evaluation period. Playing in a high-profile matchup against five-star 2020 guard Jaden Springer, Edwards displayed a natural scoring ability thanks to his ridiculous athleticism and acumen for putting the ball in the basket; he’s what hoopheads will call a “bucket-getter”.

Although his jumper wasn’t falling from three-point range (5-for-22), Edwards still shot 57 percent from the field while putting up 22.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game during the weekend.

Displaying more vision and passing ability with his Atlanta Xpress team than in the camp setting, Edwards looked like a more complete guard at the UAA Challenge. He also defended to the tune of an event-leading 2.4 steals per game as Edwards has long arms and a quick first step to jump into passing lanes.

There is plenty of competition for the top spot in 2020, but Edwards is going to be among the major contenders with his summer play.

JEREMIAH EARL-ROBINSON IS AS PRODUCTIVE AS ANYONE IN THE CLASS

This summer has seen Jeremiah Robinson-Earl produce everywhere he has played. The 6-foot-8 Class of 2019 forward helped the USA U18 team win a gold medal while also leading the UAA Challenge in rebounds the first week of July.

A double-double machine who is improving his perimeter skill, Robinson-Earl is a hard-playing and intriguing combo forward who should join a high-level college rotation immediately. He has great secondary leaping ability that enables him to be a menace on the offensive glass as he’s particularly adept at putbacks.

If Robinson-Early can show an improved perimeter jumper and an ability to attack off the dribble, then he’ll have a chance to be a top-ten player in the class. He has the motor and production to rise if he fixes his flaws and he’ll have plenty of time to be a showcase player at IMG Academy next season.

Kansas is a perceived favorite with Robinson-Earl, as Bill Self coached him on the U18 team over the past several weeks before the live period. North Carolina and Arizona are among some other schools also trying to stay in the mix for Robinson-Earl as they try to pry him away from the Midwest.