Now that Kentucky has been linked to the ongoing FBI investigation of financial corruption in men’s basketball recruiting by Friday’s Yahoo Sports report, UK fans may as well buckle up.
The uncertainty ahead is going to make the coming months trying for those who follow Wildcats basketball. Simply put, there is no way to know where this can go.
Yahoo Sports reporters Pat Forde and Pete Thamel gained access to documents and bank records acquired by the federal government through discovery during its ongoing probe of the seamy underbelly of college basketball.
According to their Friday report, those documents appear to list “the expenditures of prominent former NBA agent Andy Miller, his former associate Christian Dawkins and his agency, ASM Sports. They include expense reports and balance sheets that list cash advances, as well as entertainment and travel expenses for high school and college prospects and their families.”
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One apparent ASM document allegedly shows a “bad loan” of $36,500 listed by the name of former Kentucky big man Bam Adebayo (When he turned pro, Adebayo signed with agent Andy Saratsis of Octagon, not ASM and Miller).
The ledgers also listed a loan for $4,350 to ex-Cat Nerlens Noel, though it was unclear whether the timing of that alleged payment would have impacted the center’s one season of college eligibility at UK in 2012-13.
Most immediately of concern for Kentucky, the name of current Wildcats forward Kevin Knox appeared on a list of players who may have had a meal paid for by a representative of ASM. That means Kentucky could have a decision to make on whether to hold the 6-foot-9 Knox, UK’s leading scorer (15.4 ppg), out of upcoming games.
In a statement, UK Coach John Calipari said “I have no relationship with Andy Miller or any of his associates. Neither my staff nor I utilized any agent, including Andy Miller or any of his associates, to provide any financial benefits to a current or former Kentucky student-athlete. We will cooperate fully with the appropriate authorities.”
Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said that UK has not been contacted by either the FBI or the NCAA. Since learning of the Yahoo report, Barnhart says Kentucky has reached out to both the NCAA and the Southeastern Conference office and has opened an “internal review.”
Basketball blue bloods Duke, North Carolina and Michigan State were also among the-almost 20 programs implicated in some way by the information reported Friday by Yahoo.
Besides Knox, current high-profile college players such as Michigan State’s Miles Bridges, Alabama’s Collin Sexton and Duke’s Wendell Carter were also linked to issues that could — or could not — impact their college eligibility.
At Calipari’s previously scheduled news conference Friday afternoon to preview Saturday night’s game with Missouri, the UK head coach said he knew of no reason at that time why Knox would not play against the Tigers.
At this point, college basketball is in uncharted waters.
The NCAA is taking a hands-off approach from the scandal until the FBI and the federal courts are done. With four assistant coaches and five other alleged participants in the basketball underground — including Dawkins — awaiting trial, that could take years.
Should current players be declared ineligible by their schools as a result of Friday’s report, is the NCAA even in position to reinstate their eligibility if that is merited? If all one did is accept a paid meal from an agent and nothing else, reinstatement of eligibility should be a formality after reimbursement.
Among the most consequential of the unknowns going forward is how determined is the FBI — with its subpoena power — to keep digging into basketball corruption?
With the start of the probe seemingly focused around Adidas, will things get worse for Nike schools such as UK, Duke, UNC and Michigan State if the FBI turns the same level of investigative zeal onto the Swoosh?
Off what we learned Friday, the most worrisome information as it pertains to Kentucky is the alleged loan linked to Adebayo.
While there’s no indication that UK was involved in directing that, if money actually changed hands it is nevertheless possible Kentucky used an ineligible player while going 32-6 and reaching the NCAA Tournament round of eight last season.
Should UK end up “vacating” those 32 wins, it would have implications in the all-time college hoops victories race. As of Friday, Kentucky held a 17-game advantage over Kansas and a 28-game edge over North Carolina for most wins in men’s college hoops history.
Then again, Tony Bradley, a key freshman reserve on last year’s North Carolina NCAA title team, was mentioned by Yahoo as appearing on the list of players for whom ASM may have bought a meal.
The mother of Josh Jackson, freshman star for Kansas last season, is listed according to Yahoo as having received an alleged “advance” of $1,700 from ASM.
Given the swirling uncertainty that currently engulfs college basketball, UK is hardly the only school at the top of the sport with reason to worry about having to vacate wins.