NCAA Players Revealed in FBI Report to Receive Benefits

It looks like we have our first name drop in the FBI investigation over corruption within college basketball. Yahoo Sports reported this morning that numerous players, from major programs, received impermissible benefits while at, or currently at, school from the ASM Sports agency. The reports come directly from the financial records and spreadsheets of Andy Miller and Christian Dawkins, two men formerly associated with the agency. Dawkins was one of the ten people arrested in September when this news first broke.

The report lists in detail the payments and loans given to players in an attempt to get them to sign with ASM upon declaring for the NBA Draft. The report includes current NBA players such as Dennis Smith, Markelle Fultz, Josh Jackson, Kyle Lowry, Bam Adebayo, Kyle Kuzma and more. It also lists current NCAA athletes such as Wendell Carter (Duke), Collin Sexton (Alabama), Kevin Knox (Kentucky) and Miles Bridges (Michigan State).

It’s important to note that these transactions were mainly between the player’s families and ASM directly, which is different from the school’s directly funneling money to the player and his family in return for a commitment. It’s possible coaches were unaware of these deals occurring, so I don’t expect much to happen to them based on this report. No school other than Xavier would comment on the report. Below is head coach Chris Mack’s comment:

“I have no relationship with Andy Miller or any of his associates. He plays no role in the recruitment of potential student athletes on Xavier’s behalf. Beyond that, our staff has never created a path for him to foster a relationship with any of our student-athletes while enrolled at Xavier. Any suggestion that I or anyone on my staff utilized Andy Miller to provide even the slightest of financial benefits to a Xavier student-athlete is grossly misinformed. We are prepared to cooperate with any and all investigations at any level.”

Former Xavier player Edmund Sumner was a name listed in the documents. I don’t disbelieve Mack. I’m sure he did not utilize ASM to land recruits and I’m sure he was never introducing Sumner to Andy Miller. As I said before, these transactions are primarily between families of players and the agency. It could have gone on behind a coach’s backs. However, as a head coach, you have a pretty good idea of what goes on within your program, on and off the court. For all these coaches to be 100% blind to these deals happening seems a little farfetched, but I’m not here to point fingers and make up rumors.

The news basically just cures a craving that most of the college basketball world has had since last week, when the report of hundreds of documents being in the FBI’s possession broke. It’s illegal, but nothing earth shattering. Most players have dollar amounts next to their name in the thousands, but others are much less. Some players are listed on the report solely because the agency picked up the bill for dinner meeting. Others received a couple hundred dollars to make some bill payments, allegedly.

As for the NCAA, they released a statement this morning, but it was pretty vague and unconvincing. “The Board and I are completely committed to making transformational changes to the game and ensuring all involved in college basketball do so with integrity.” That’s just a piece of the full statement put out by Mark Emmert. Unless those changes are compensating players and their families, in some fashion, for the monetary value that they provide to the NCAA and universities, these cases will never go away. I’m not saying players need hundreds of thousands of dollars, but some of these records are for hundreds of dollars. There is some middle ground that would eliminate this corruption and help players’ families. That’s a conversation for another day.

As I said before, not much should happen to head coaches with this report. I would expect a lot of teams to have to eventually forfeit some wins (joy) for having ineligible players play. We may just get to a point where the NCAA just vacates every National Championship for the past 20 years. Just pretend no one won anything and try to start fresh. It will be interesting to see how the programs with active NCAA players fair for the rest of the year. With conference tournaments and Selection Sunday coming up it’s worth monitoring. This report gave everyone a taste at what could be out there, but it remains a waiting game.

St. John’s Basketball: Shocking the World One Upset at a Time

January 20th. Capital One Arena in Washington, DC. The St. John’s Red Storm appeared to be on their way to their first Big East Conference win, until Marcus Derrickson buried a three with 3.9 seconds left to force overtime. Georgetown would go on to win in the extra period and the Johnnies were still winless.

Fast forward two weeks and that same team has had maybe the best five day stretch in the history of college basketball. Chris Mullin and his team knocked off the number one ranked Villanova Wildcats Wednesday night, in Philadelphia. The Wildcats were without Phil Booth and Eric Paschall, but they still should have had no problem at home against a St John’s team that was 0-11 in Big East games this season. But they did.
The upset over #1 came just days after the Red Storm took down the #4 ranked Duke Blue Devils inside Madison Square Garden. Duke has had their struggles this year, and St. John’s does play well at MSG, but still should not have given Duke so many issues. They still have the likely first pick in the NBA Draft, as well as two or three more future pros. But they struggled too. With the streak the Storm have been on the question has to be asked:

Has there been better back-to-back upsets ever in the NCAA?

The first team that comes to mind is the 2006 George Mason team and their magical run through the NCAA Tournament. That team had some improbable wins to say the least. They beat a UNC team with Tyler Hansbrough, Danny Green, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington. They also knocked off a UConn team with Rudy Gay and Josh Boone that was favored to win the Championship. Those wins weren’t back-to-back, however.

Then there was the 2011 VCU team that Jay Bilas famously ranted on ESPN saying they had no business being in the NCAA tournament. That team did beat the consensus favorite Kansas on their way to a Final Four, but no other team was of the caliber Duke and Villanova are this year.

There have been a number of upsets in NCAA history, on stages bigger than regular season games in early February. There’s Villanova over Patrick Ewing and Georgetown in the National Championship. Jim Valvano and NC State took down heavily favored Houston for the title. And don’t forget that time Chaminade took down a Ralph Sampson led Virginia team. St John’s beating #1 ranked Villanova or Duke does not compare to these upsets, but combined it’s something special.

Come March these are two teams who could be #1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. St. John’s won’t be there, but they’ll have wins over both them. That’s something you cannot take away. And while people make a big deal about moral victories or participation trophies, for a team that has as little going for it as St. John’s does, they may hold the title for best back-to-back upsets in college hoops history.

 

PS – This is a last minute ploy to watch Shamorie Ponds for at least a half sometime this year. He is one of the most underappreciated guards in the country because he plays for St. John’s, but he is incredibly talented. Just watch his highlights from the past two games.