Recruiting scandal sends waves through NCAA Basketball

November 29, 2017

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Rick Pitino, former Louisville head coach, addresses the media. (Image courtesy of Flickr)

Rick Pitino, former Louisville head coach, addresses the media. (Image courtesy of Flickr)

Rick Pitino, former Louisville head coach, addresses the media. (Image courtesy of Flickr)

The college basketball world has been rocked with allegations over the course of the last month. Many coaches have been arrested, athletic directors have resigned, and players have been suspended. Adidas, one of the leading brands for sporting goods throughout the country, has been implicated as being one of the causes for the illegal actions.

The scandal began in August, when according to ESPN, Louis Martin “Marty” Blazer III, a financial advisor from Pittsburgh, was accused of taking $2.35 million and using the money to invest in movie projects. This wasn’t the first time Blazer was investigated for financial allegations. In 2011, an NFL player filed a report stating that he lost $4 million due to Blazer’s mismanagement of his money. In 2015, Blazer was involved in an investigation of North Carolina’s football team and alleged improper cash payments given out to them. Documents from the U.S. Department of Justice state that he, “made payments and loans to NCAA athletes in order to induce those student-athletes to retain the defendant as a financial adviser.”

Blazer’s plea deal changed everything. He agreed to become a cooperating witness for the FBI and would provide the information that would spark this entire investigation.

A year prior, in the fall of 2016, Blazer was introduced to Rashan Michel, a former NBA referee who is now a tailor for many professional athletes. Soon after, Michel told Blazer that Auburn assistant coach Chuck Person needed money. In exchange for this money, Person would steer athletes towards Auburn to retain Blazer’s financial advisory services.

This would be just the start of the violations produced by numerous teams. Coaches from Arizona, Auburn, Louisville, Miami, Oklahoma State, and USC were all implicated according to ESPN. Chuck Person would be placed on leave. Louisville’s head coach Rick Pitino was fired and their athletic director, Tom Jurich, would resign. Arizona would suspend assistant coach Book Richardson. Oklahoma State fired assistant coach Lamont Evans. USC’s assistant coach Tony Bland would be placed on leave as well.

Louisville has faced the harshest media attention due to the scandal. Five star recruit, and current freshman Brian Bowen II, who is the cousin of former Michigan State standout and NBA player Jason Richardson and was raised in Saginaw, is the centerpiece of these infractions. Adidas, the company that sponsors all of Louisville’s athletics, allegedly siphoned $100,000 towards Bowen and his family. In exchange, he would commit to Louisville to play for their basketball team and allegedly sign with Adidas once he became a pro athlete.  

Bowen was a presumed Spartan from the time he was born. The Spartans were still the favorites to win the recruiting battle for him as late as February, when he took an official visit there. Bowen even listed his top five teams at that time. Louisville was not included. In fact, Louisville wasn’t even known to be recruiting him until the few days before he committed to them in June.

Bowen was a promising athlete with star potential. Now, he is suspended and not playing for any NCAA team this season most likely. All because of the power of money leading to ignorant decisions.

The four men known to be involved in determining the conditions and way to pay out the money to the Bowens have all been arrested, James Gatto, the director of sports marketing at Adidas, is the most prominent figure of the group. Merl Code, another Adidas employee, Christian Dawkins, who runs a youth basketball team based in Saginaw, and Munish Sood, another money manager similar to Blazer. The group allegedly paid money to two other high school players.

Mr. Gilbert, the boys basketball coach at Milford, had doubts about Pitino before. “I’ve always thought he was shady before, now this has confirmed it.”

Many people wonder whether or not these recruiting “tactics” have always been present in college basketball. “I think it has been going  on for a while; it’s predictable. After everything clears up and certain schools come up as clean or dirty, the clean schools, such as Michigan State or Michigan, will get a boost with recruits because people know their coaches are pure,” stated Gilbert.

For anyone who is an athlete potentially being recruited, Gilbert has advice for you. “Get to know your coaches and their programs. Make sure that you know you are being recruited for the right reasons and choose a school for the right reasons.”

The world of high school athletes can be changed drastically with one quick call or meeting after a game all from one motive: money. Many similar situations are probably present behind the scenes of college basketball today, yet will go unnoticed. Student-athletes could live a life of fame or a life of shame, it just depends what path they take.

 

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