Oct. 11-- The Daniel Patrick Moynihan Courthouse in the Southern District of New York is located on Pearl Street in Lower Manhattan.
Inside the wood-paneled courtroom of Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, the first of three trials is underway that will expose what one federal official called "the dark underbelly of college basketball." Already, there has been explosive testimony about payments to the families of top prospects-by sneaker companies, by pro agents, by AAU clubs, by high school coaches, by college coaches-in direct violation of the NCAA's sacred amateurism rules.
"This," U.S. Attorney Eli Mark told the jury, "is what corruption in college basketball looks like."
But if you really want to take the sport's pulse, if you really want to know whether the ripples from the boulder dropped in the pond are reaching the shore, if you really want to gauge the level of fear coursing through athletic departments across the country, the best place to start is not Pearl Street in lower Manhattan.
It's Tucson, Ariz.
The case in New York has already ensnared longtime Arizona assistant coach Emanuel "Book" Richardson, whose nickname now holds dual meaning after being "booked" last year on an array of bribery, fraud and corruption charges. His trial is expected to begin in the spring, with assistants from other prominent programs indicted following a massive FBI probe using wire taps and confidential informants.
And who knows what secrets Book might spill, especially since, as his wife recently told Stadium, he feels abandoned by his former employer-"just thrown out with the trash."
There's also the phone conversation, reportedly captured on an FBI wiretap, in which ESPN sources claim Wildcats head coach Sean Miller was caught discussing a $100,000 payment for a high school prospect.
And defense attorneys, in opening statements last week, saying adidas arranged to pay recruit Nassir Little $150,000 to attend Miami because Arizona, a Nike school, had offered him the same amount to go there.
And an adidas exec testifying Wednesday that he paid the family of Deandre Ayton, the Wildcats' star center last season and No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, in hopes of swaying him from the swoosh.
And Brian Bowen Sr., also granted government immunity, claiming Arizona offered his son $50,000 through assistant Joe Pasternack, now the head coach at UC Santa Barbara.
And yet ...
In the last few weeks Arizona has landed commitments from a pair of top 15 prep prospects from the class of 2019, neither of whom seem particularly concerned by the swirl of allegations or the possibility that they'll amount to anything. The Wildcats are in contention for four more top 50 players, which could push their class to No. 1 in the nation.
The top spot in 247 Sports' recruiting rankings for 2019 is currently held by USC, which had assistant coach Tony Bland indicted for allegedly accepting and arranging bribes from agents to steer Trojan players in their direction. No. 2 on the list? Louisville, which, the way NCAA rules read, could face the "death penalty" and have the program shuttered because of recurring major violations after already being on probation.
That tells you something. Or at least it should.
You probably wouldn't pledge your basketball allegiance to a school if you thought the NCAA is about to bring down the hammer, if you thought probation and postseason bans are imminent.
But here's the thing: People don't. Not the university presidents, not the athletic departments, not the coaches, not the players, not the parents, not the folks in the shadows advising them.
Said Erin Richardson, Book's wife: "He feels like they just wanted to wash their hands of him, (like), 'Let's just get rid of that and go about business.' "
The NCAA has hinted that the feds asked it to stay on the sidelines until all three trials are complete, which might be another nine to 12 months. It has no visible presence in the courtroom; all it has said is it's "closely monitoring" the proceedings.
Schools technically are supposed to supervise themselves, conducting internal investigations or hiring outside firms to do it, then self-reporting violations and proposing sanctions. But as one sordid allegation after another has emerged, schools have hastily issued statements absolving themselves of guilt.
They took, what, a whole 15 minutes to investigate?
It's the same reason pro sports leagues, trying to police and promote at the same time, aren't particularly interested in catching drug cheats. It's not good for business. Waaaaay too many dollars and egos at stake.
In the past, NCAA regulations obliged it to independently verify any evidence from a court case-testimony, documents, whatever-through its own investigative branch, which, by the way, does not have subpoena power to compel people to speak or speak truthfully. But one underpublicized outcome from the commission headed by Condoleezza Rica is a rule tweak allowing the use of court evidence and other public records in NCAA investigations without corroboration.
So the NCAA has the tools now. Just nobody has any confidence it will use them.
And why would you? North Carolina had more than 1,000 athletes enrolled in 200 sham courses in its African and Afro-American Studies department for 18 years. It took the NCAA seven years to finally adjudicate the case after it first came to light, and then did ... absolutely ... nothing.
Even on the rare occasion that the NCAA does sanction a coach, placing a "show-cause" requirement on any future employers for the length of the ban, that apparently holds no teeth. On Tuesday, a Superior Court judge in Los Angeles ruled the NCAA's "show-cause" penalty against former USC assistant football coach Todd McNair violates state labor law.
The 2018-19 basketball season begins in less than a month, and it appears Arizona and everyone else sucked into the case's vortex will go about their merry way. No ineligible players. No provisional suspensions. No probation. No postseason bans.
Meanwhile, Bowen Sr. testified that Oklahoma State offered $150,000 cash plus an $80,000 car, that Creighton-Creighton-proposed $100,000 plus "high-paying jobs" for mom and dad. He said the price to attend Louisville rose from $60,000 to $100,000 because that's what fellow recruit Billy Preston was allegedly getting to go to Kansas. He provided a detailed account of how Louisville's associate head coach gave him $1,300 for rent. He chronicled how a high school coach, now an assistant at DePaul, paid him $8,000.
Oregon, Texas, North Carolina State, LSU, they've all been mentioned as well.
And we're in only Week 2 of Trial 1.
Miami and Auburn were among the programs fingered in the initial federal indictment last year. Six months later, Miami gave coach Jim Larranaga a two-year extension that will keep him at the school through 2023-24. In June, Auburn gave coach Bruce Pearl, who already ran afoul of NCAA rules while at Tennessee, a five-year extension worth $14 million.
Wash your hands, and go about business.
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