Reports: Wiretaps show Arizona coach may have offered Deandre Ayton $100,000
FBI wiretaps intercepted telephone conversations between Arizona coach Sean Miller and Christian Dawkins, a key figure in the FBI’s investigation into college basketball corruption, in which Miller discussed paying $100,000 to ensure star freshman Deandre Ayton signed with the Wildcats, sources familiar with the government’s evidence told ESPN.
The latest details of payments to players in the federal investigation that has been lurking in the shadows since first rocking college basketball last fall threaten the sport’s basic foundation with the breadth of alleged corruption.
Bank records and other expense reports list a wide range of impermissible payments from agents to at least two dozen players or their relatives, according to documents obtained by Yahoo! Sports.
The depth of the violations raises questions about the structure of college athletics.
NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement Friday the allegations ‘‘if true, point to systematic failures that must be fixed and fixed now if we want college sports in America.’’
According to people with knowledge of the FBI investigation, Miller and Dawkins, a runner working for ASM Sports agent Andy Miller, had multiple conversations about Ayton. When Dawkins asked Miller if he should work with assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson to finalize their agreement, Miller told Dawkins he should deal directly with him when it came to money, the sources said.
The telephone calls between Miller and Dawkins were among 3,000 hours of conversations intercepted from Dawkins’ phone by the FBI.
Yahoo! said the documents obtained in discovery link current players include Michigan State’s Miles Bridges, Duke’s Wendell Carter, and Alabama’s Collin Sexton to potential benefits that would be violations of NCAA rules. According to the report, players over the past several years and family members allegedly received cash and entertainment and travel expenses from Andy Miller and his agency.
Don Jackson, an Alabama-based attorney who has worked on numerous college eligibility cases, said the root of the problem for the NCAA is that the amateurism model does not work.
‘‘This problem can be solved if players are compensated. This whole issue can be mitigated if players are compensated,’’ Jackson said. ‘‘This model of amateurism does not work.
“The NCAA is not capable of adequately policing tens of thousands of athletes around the country to determine whether or not they have violated the NCAA’s model of amateurism.
‘‘We’re talking about in some instances kids receiving $30 meals from agents.’’
A balance sheet from December 2015 lists several payments under ‘‘Loan to Players,’’ including $43,500 to Dallas Mavericks guard Dennis Smith, who played one season at North Carolina State in 2016-17. Another document says Smith received a total of $73,500 in loans, and indicated options to recoup the money after Smith didn’t sign with ASM.
North Carolina State athletic director Debbie Yow said the school disassociated itself from Miller in 2012, saying the agent’s close work with a youth coach created a vulnerability for the school ‘‘that we cannot tolerate.’’ Yow said the school will fully cooperate with any investigations.
Isaiah Whitehead, a guard for the Brooklyn Nets, received $26,136 as a freshman at Seton Hall, according to the documents. He received $37,657 and was setting up a payment plan, according to another document. Whitehead signed with ASM but later left the agency.
A balance sheet also said Tim Quarterman, now playing for the Agua Caliente Clippers of the NBA G League, received at least $16,000 while a junior at LSU.
The story says several families of players or handlers received more than $1,000 in payments from ASM Sports before turning professional.
Apple Jones, the mother of former Kansas player Josh Jackson, received $2,700, and current Southern Cal player Bennie Boatwright or his father Bennie Sr. received at least $2,000, according to documents.
The story says the mother of Bridges is among those receiving hundreds of dollars in advances. Current Kentucky player Kevin Knox, Carter, and Sexton are listed among players or families meeting or having meals with former ASM Sports associate Christian Dawkins.
Kentucky coach John Calipari said neither he nor his staff used Miller or any other agent to provide financial benefits to student-athletes. He said the school will conduct an internal review and cooperate with authorities.
Jackson said the NCAA or the schools would need to conduct their own investigations as opposed to making any rulings based on the documents from the FBI probe.
‘‘They can’t just automatically accept the credibility of this document,’’ the Alabama-based attorney said.
Emmert said the NCAA Board of Governors and recently formed independent Commission on College Basketball are committed to ‘‘making transformational changes’’ and will cooperate with the federal prosecutors to ‘‘identify and punish the unscrupulous parties seeking to exploit the system through criminal acts.’’