Many are questioning the future of college basketball after reports from ESPN and Yahoo! Sports revealed widespread fraudulent transactions between agents, coaches, shoe companies and players. Chiefly implicated in the reports were Arizona head coach Sean Miller, current Arizona center DeAndre Ayton and former NC State point guard Dennis Smith.
According to ESPN, FBI wiretaps intercepted phone calls between Miller and sports agent Christian Dawkins of ASM Sports in which Miller arranged for $100,000 to be paid to Ayton through Dawkins in exchange for Ayton’s commitment to Arizona. Ayton, the No. 3 ranked player in the 2017 freshman class, averages 19.6 points per game and 10.6 rebounds per game for the 22-6 Wildcats.
Smith received $73,500 from Dawkins in hopes of Smith signing with ASM Sports when he declared for the NBA after his freshman season last year, according to documents released by Yahoo! Sports’ Pat Forde. Smith did not sign with ASM Sports and Dawkins subsequently sought to reclaim the money.
At least 10 players, both past and present, received loans of thousands of dollars from ASM Sports, including South Carolina’s P.J. Dozier, Kentucky’s Bam Adebayo and Washington’s Markelle Fultz, all currently rookies in the NBA. If retroactively deemed ineligible, these teams could have to vacate wins—including South Carolina’s Cinderella run to last year’s Final Four.
Also mentioned in the Yahoo! report were a number of players or families of players who met with Dawkins over meals that Dawkins had paid for. Though the potential NCAA infractions described were minor and will not affect eligibility, players named included former North Carolina center Tony Bradley, current Duke center Wendell Carter, former Virginia guard Malcolm Brogdon and current Kentucky forward Kevin Knox.
This all comes after the FBI raided ASM Sports in September, breaking open a story that will unquestionably go down as one of the most significant in the history of college basketball. Dawkins and his superior at ASM Sports, Andy Miller, were arrested in the raid, along with eight other agents, Adidas executives and assistant coaches across the country. It was revealed in indictments released after the raid that Adidas arranged for $100,000 to be paid to current South Carolina guard Brian Bowen in exchange for his commitment to Louisville. Bowen was again named in the ESPN report as having received further loans from Dawkins.
Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, one of the most successful coaches of all time, was fired less than a week later. Louisville was forced to vacate their 2012 Final Four appearance and 2013 National Championship this past week as a result of an unrelated prostitution scandal.
The severity and amount of allegations is overwhelming. It is an insult to the sport; these allegations threaten the institutional validity of college athletics itself. Completely circumventing the NCAA’s core pillar of the “student-athlete,” Dawkins, Andy Miller, Adidas executives, Sean Miller, Pitino, Smith, Ayton and many others whose transgressions will come to light over the coming weeks undermined the NCAA’s autonomy and turned the amateur recruitment process into an auction in which the highest bidder—in Ayton’s case, Arizona—got the player.
Not only is this an obvious and egregious violation of NCAA rules, it could also come with serious legal repercussions. Anyone who received or facilitated untaxed contributions above $10,000 from ASM Sports could face further criminal investigation from the FBI and the IRS.
No one in Division I basketball is safe from this investigation. Over 25 programs were listed, and the potential culprits were not limited to traditional basketball powerhouses; schools like Seton Hall, Clemson and Wichita State were mentioned in the reports, and this should be cause for concern for every college basketball fan in the country, regardless of team affiliation.
There are many unanswered questions at this point. Over the coming months, the picture will become clearer as trials get underway and more evidence is released. One thing is for certain: when the dust settles, college basketball will never be the same again.