If you don’t follow college basketball religiously, if your understanding of the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college athletics is limited to a soundbite from their September 26th, 2017, press conference stating that “we have your playbook,” then HBO’s new documentary, The Scheme, is going to be an eye-opener for you.
The film is told from the perspective of Christian Dawkins, the son of a Michigan high school coaching legend that, by his early 20s, was an aspiring agent that worked as a middleman between some of basketball’s best high school prospects ad the shoe companies, agents and college coaches recruiting them. Dawkins was sentenced to 18 months in prison on bribery and fraud charges stemming from the investigation, and the documentary is, in essence, the defense that Dawkins was hoping to muster at trial and was never allowed to. In short, his goal was never to use the money given to him by a still-unnamed (and potentially corrupt) FBI agent to bribe coaches because that’s not how the business works. As he put it in the film, “the FBI funded a great party for college coaches,” and what was leftover was the seed money he would use for his management business.
It heavily features three people — Dawkins, his lawyer Steve Haney and Dan Wetzel, a columnist for Yahoo! and the our nation’s leader in the anti-NCAA movement — that believe what many in the basketball community believe: That it’s farcical that Dawkins, and the nine other men that were arrested by the FBI during this investigation, has been convicted of multiple federal felonies for breaking NCAA rules; that it’s a joke that Marty Blazer, a man that stole millions and millions of dollars from his clients, got a year of probation and no jail time for his crimes in exchange for putting the FBI on Dawkins’ trail; that this investigation did little more than set taxpayer money on fire while essentially turning the NCAA’s amateurism bylaws into federal legislation.
There are plenty of people in our country that only read the tweet and didn’t click the link on anything that had to do with this story as it played out over the last two and a half years, and this is going to be their chance to fully grasp just how ridiculous this entire endeavor was.
But for those of us that have been paying attention, the information here really isn’t all that new.
We knew most of this, thanks in part to the reporting from Yahoo! Sports over that time frame.
What is going to make the headlines from this case is what was caught on tape. There is video of Dawkins, on a yacht, taking $50,000 from an undercover FBI agent. There is video of his in a Las Vegas hotel room with a handful of assistant coaches — TCU’s Corey Barker, USC’s Tony Bland, Creighton’s Preston Murphy — accepting envelopes full of cash. More importantly, we get a chance to listen in on the wiretapped phone calls involving Arizona’s Sean Miller and LSU’s Will Wade.
Hearing Wade talk so openly about making “strong-ass offers” and discuss how he could compensate a player “better than the rookie minimum, we’d give him more than the D League,” is certainly striking. It’s one thing to read those lines on a screen. It’s another to hear them come out of his mouth.
In another conversation that was recorded, Miller was discussing the recruitment of Nassir Little with Dawkins. Little, at the time, was thought to be down to Arizona and Miami as the two schools pursuing him. Miller asked about how he should navigate Little’s AAU director and AAU coach. This exchange followed:
Christian Dawkins: “They definitely want to get some [expletive] for themselves because they have been taking care of the kid, and they [expletive] like …
Sean Miller: “Miami doesn’t have an advantage over us in that area, do they?”
Dawkins: “Well, I’ll say this, what Miami does have is Adidas.”
Perhaps more striking was the conversation the pair had about Naz Reid, a 6-foot-10 forward from New Jersey that eventually enrolled at LSU for a year. Former Arizona assistant Emanuel “Book” Richardson, who was convicted of similar crimes and served three months in prison, was caught on a recording saying, “there’s a deal in place, I got $300,000 for [Reid].”
That led to this exchange:
Dawkins: “Do you think you’ll get Naz Reid?”
Miller: “No. He’s going to LSU.”
Dawkins: “OK, he’s going to LSU, so that helps.”
Miller: “We’re not even bringing him on a visit. He’s not even visiting. That’s all [expletive]. Like, I’m looking at our recruiting board, he’s not even on it. I’ve never talked to the kid. All this [expletive] hype [expletive] on the phone, it’s stupid. He just probably said, ‘You know what, [expletive] you. I don’t want 75, I want a 120. I may go to Arizona.’ That’s all that was.”
Dawkins: “And Will Wade — I told Book, I said, ‘Will Wade is like driving up the price of [expletive]. Cause he’s not even doing like real numbers.’”
Miller: “I tell you what, ‘I’ll give him credit. He’s got a big set of balls on him.’”
Dawkins: “No, Will Wade doesn’t give a [expletive], Sean.”
Also included in the film is a scene where Dawkins discusses his arrest. He was brought into a hotel in Manhattan under the guise of another meeting with his investors when an undercover FBI agent asked him if he would flip on Rick Pitino and NBA agent Andy Miller. While they were having that conversation, Dawkins said, Sean Miller called him. When he did, the call popped up on the FBI agents’ phones.
That’s when he knew.
But Dawkins didn’t flip.
He fought, and is still fighting, these charges to the bitter end.
The reason why Pitino was the only coach that, to date, has lost his job as a result of this scandal is because Dawkins decided that he wasn’t going to turn snitch.
And at the end of the day, the reason why this investigation didn’t turn the sport completely upside down, as so many predicted that it would, was because of that decision Dawkins made.
This film tells you why.