Yesterday the FBI shook the college sports world by arresting and unsealing indictments against four college basketball coaches, the global head of marketing for Adidas, and several other individuals. The FBI alleges that those involved perpetrated an ongoing scheme including bribery, solicitation of bribery, honest services fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit the aforementioned crimes.
In plain English, the FBI alleges that the individuals involved paid bribes and kickbacks to amateur athletes, their families, and college coaches to induce those athletes to choose certain schools (Adidas schools) and then to hire certain agents and advisers and sign an Adidas sponsorship contract when they graduated. For those who are interested, the indictments are available on the Department of Justice Website (ONE, TWO, and THREE). The sums involved were often significant, such as $150,000 going to the family of one athlete.
The scheme also was not an isolated incident, but rather a systemic effort. Some of the coaches involved allegedly asked the Adidas executive and others involved to push certain recruits toward signing with their schools. The alleged participants also sought not only to induce to players to sign at specific schools, but also sought to ensure that they did not sign at certain schools.
The identities of those involved in this scheme are not yet all known, but we do know the identity of some of the parties. Specifically, assistant coaches at Auburn, Arizona, Oklahoma State, and USC are named in the indictment and were arrested yesterday. Educated guesses at the identity of the remaining schools involved can be made based upon information in the indictments or subsequent public actions by those schools.
NCAA bribery scandal. The schools aren't named in the complaints, so that's just me trying to match up enrollment numbers. Could be wrong /x— James Lesinski (@JamesLesinski) September 26, 2017
The actions of schools, coaches, and players/recruits going forward will help clarify the scope of this scandal. Some schools are already acting quickly to contain the fallout. For instance, it appears that Louisville has fired Rick Pitino and and Athletic Director Tom Jurich. Auburn is offering a refund on basketball season tickets and has canceled two press conferences involving head coach Bruce Pearl. USC has hired the firm of former FBI director Louis Freeh to conduct an investigation into its involvement in the scandal.
At least three highly-ranked recruits have also decommitted from a school implicated in the indictments. Following Pitino’s ouster, five-star PG Courtney Ramey and five-star guard Anfernee Simmons decommitted from Louisville. Earlier in the day, five-star PF EJ Montgomery decommitted from Auburn. Recruits and players in the indictment were identified only as player-1, player-2, and so forth — so until the NCAA begins its investigation and makes eligibility determinations, there will be no way of knowing if recruits are simply fleeing imploding programs or if they received payments as a result of the scandal.
Because Michigan was an Adidas school, there will undoubtedly be questions asked about whether the Wolverines were involved in the scandal. As of right now, there is nothing to suggest that it was. Michigan doesn’t appear to be referenced in the indictments, and subsequent reporting by sportswriters have not mentioned Beilein or his assistants. In fact, yesterday’s news may cast Beilein being voted as the ‘cleanest’ coach in college basketball earlier this year in new light. The scandal may also explain why Beilein declined to pursue certain top prospects or the difficulty he had in landing some high-profile recruits. Notably, both have been reasons why fans have maligned Michigan’s basketball coach in recent years.
What will happen next remains to be seen, though there is one thing that I am sure of: This is just the beginning. The prosecutions of those indicted will progress and additional information is likely to become known through that process. Schools will evaluate their own involvement and those reports will provide more insight. It also appears the FBI is continuing their investigation and is in the process of targeting the AAU circuit.
There are record amounts of money sloshing around the college athletics landscape. Surely this won’t be the last scandal involving basketball, and it is only a matter of time until football is looked at as well. There are dark clouds on the horizon for college sports, and we’re just along for the ride.