Their first exhibition game is less than three weeks away, on Nov. 1 against Newberry College, so the University of Miami men’s basketball team has been busy practicing while the school’s lawyers keep up with the federal investigation, in hopes the Hurricanes coaching staff will be proven innocent of any wrongdoing.
Coach Jim Larrañaga, through his attorney, Stuart Z. Grossman, has said he had “zero involvement” in alleged discussions of payments to recruits, and neither did his assistant coaches. Ten men were arrested as a result of the FBI probe into corruption in college basketball, including two Adidas employees and four Division 1 assistant coaches.
One Adidas executive, Jim Gatto, was scheduled to face a federal judge in New York City on Thursday. He is accused of conspiring to funnel $100,000 from the apparel company to the family of a recruit to lure him to the University of Louisville and a potential shoe contract if he makes the NBA. He also is alleged to have been involved in conversations with Orlando AAU coach Brad Augustine and aspiring agent Christian Dawkins about potentially paying another recruit up to $150,000 to steer him to UM, which is sponsored by Adidas.
The player, believed to be Nassir Little, has repeatedly said neither he nor his family were part of the alleged talks. He committed to the University of North Carolina last week over UM, Arizona, Duke and Georgia Tech.
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The four assistant coaches charged in the bribe scheme – Chuck Person of Auburn, Emmanuel “Book” Richardson of Arizona, Anthony Bland of USC, and Lamont Evans of Oklahoma State – were arraigned this week and released on $100,000 bond after giving up their passports. Once suspects make their initial court appearance, prosecutors have 30 days to present evidence to a grand jury to seek an indictment. It is possible additional suspects will be named.
Meanwhile, NCAA president Mark Emmert formed a 14-person “Commission on College Basketball” to try to clean up the sport. It will be chaired by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Other members include former Duke star Grant Hill, former NBA star David Robinson, and former Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley.
“The recent news of a federal investigation into fraud in college basketball made it very clear the NCAA needs to make substantive changes to the way we operate, and do so quickly,” Emmert said in a press release. “Individuals who break the trust on which college sports is based have no place here. While I believe the vast majority of coaches follow the rules, the culture of silence in college basketball enables bad actors, and we need them out of the game. We must take decisive action. This is not a time for half-measures or incremental change.”