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Question of the Week — Will the Next College Hoops Fraud Trial Bring Down High-Profile Coaches?

Posted  February 28, 2019

This week, Yahoo! reported that two high-profile coaches-Arizona’s Sean Miller and LSU’s Will Wade-will be subpoenaed in an April trial regarding the dark world of college basketball recruiting.  In September 2017, federal prosecutors out of the Southern District of New York arrested 10 individuals on fraud and corruption charges in connection with the recruitment of prominent college basketball players. Now it appears that some of the biggest names in college hoops will have to testify under oath about their connection to the recruiting underworld.

In October, the government secured convictions against the first three defendants brought to trial: an Adidas executive, and Adidas consultant, and a runner for an NBA agent. They were accused of operating “pay-to-play” schemes in which coaches and advisors of top high school recruits were paid to direct the students to Adidas-affiliated universities, including Kansas, Louisville, and N.C. State. The government alleged that this scheme defrauded the universities by causing them to offer athletic scholarships to ineligible players. 

To defend the charges of fraud, the defendants argued that the schools knew all along what they were doing, and proffered evidence suggesting big-name coaches-including Kansas’s Bill Self, former Louisville coach Rick Pitino, and others-knew of the payments. For example, a former Adidas consultant testified that an assistant coach at N.C. State facilitated the payment to a recruit. And Self was accused of soliciting a $20,000 payment to a recruit’s guardian. The jury was unpersuaded and found all three men guilty. According to ESPN, the universities are now seeking over $1 million in restitution.  

Two more trials are on the horizon, and new bombshell developments could be on the way. The subpoenaed coaches were reportedly caught on numerous wiretapped calls discussing payments to recruits.  And the next case is expected to include far more evidence of the recruiting underworld than the first, according to one of the attorneys involved

Even if the coaches avoid any criminal exposure, their sworn testimony could cause major headaches for them and their schools. The NCAA is closely monitoring the government’s cases for evidence of rules violations, and Yahoo! has reported that the NCAA is now “aggressively” seeking access to the evidence collected by the government. 

Miller, in particular, has found himself in hot water, even though he has not been criminally charged. One of his assistants pleaded guilty to bribery charges, while another recently left the program due to an academic scandal. But so far, Arizona and LSU have stuck by their coaches.

Will the next college hoops fraud trial bring down these high-profile coaches?

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