University of Miami

UM coaches turn over records, expect exoneration in FBI probe

University of Miami coach Jim Larranaga and his staff are cooperating with the FBI investigation into alleged corruption in college basketball, and expect to be exonerated, according to Larranaga’s attorney.
University of Miami coach Jim Larranaga and his staff are cooperating with the FBI investigation into alleged corruption in college basketball, and expect to be exonerated, according to Larranaga’s attorney. MIAMI HERALD

A week has passed since the FBI unsealed indictments against 10 people following a sweeping probe of alleged corruption in college basketball; and it remains unclear what role — if any — a University of Miami coach played in the bribery scandal.

UM coach Jim Larrañaga, through his attorney Stuart Z. Grossman, insists that he and his assistants are innocent and never discussed any payments to recruits. They are going over their phone records and other documents with school counsel, and expect to be exonerated.

“Coach L has done absolutely nothing wrong, and neither have his assistants,” Grossman told the Miami Herald on Tuesday. “Never was he approached about a payment. He never spoke to any recruit or Adidas representative about a payment. If someone used his name, it was done in vain.

“Coach L has no idea what this matter is about, other than what he read in the complaint, and he believes none of his assistants were involved in any wrongdoing whatsoever. We hope for a swift conclusion in this matter, but dealing with the government takes time.”

Already, the potential link to the probe may be hurting UM with recruiting. The father of Jalen Carey, a New Jersey guard whose top choices were Syracuse, UConn and Miami, told recruiting site Zagsblog that he is no longer considering the Hurricanes.

Federal authorities charge in a 100-page report that a pair of Adidas executives conspired with at least four college coaches, a sports agent, financial adviser, and director of an Orlando AAU basketball program to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to high school recruits in an effort to lure them to Adidas-sponsored universities.

UM is not mentioned by name, and no Hurricane coaches have been charged, but the FBI findings describe a few wire-tapped phone calls between defendants during the time period of Aug. 9 and Aug. 12 about a proposed $150,000 payment to a UM recruit that make reference to an anonymous “Coach-3” at unnamed “University-7,” which is described as a “private research university located in Florida with approximately 16,000 students. ... and fields 15 varsity sports teams, including men’s basketball.”

UM President Julio Frenk later confirmed in a statement that the U.S. Attorney’s Office is “investigating a potential tie to one member of our coaching staff and a student recruit,” and pledged full support in the ongoing investigation.

There is also mention of two cellphone calls “on or about August 6, 2017,” with defendant Jim Gatto, the Adidas director of marketing, from a phone number “believed to be used by Coach-3.”

Grossman says there is nothing to hide about those two calls, and if defendants made any mention of a UM coach consenting to payments in subsequent recorded calls, it is baseless.

“It is common knowledge that coaches speak to AAU coaches, and to their sponsors, as part of the recruiting process,” he said. “That’s the way business is done. The contents of all those conversations were purely legal and about basketball, not about bribes.”

The recruit discussed on those calls is believed to be Nassir Little of Jacksonville, who plays for the Orlando-based 1Family AAU team whose director, Brad Augustine, was among those arrested. Little and his family professed their innocence in a statement released last week.

“The Little family did not ask for, nor were offered money by any institution or individual,” read the statement on Twitter. “They were completely unaware of any of the alleged offenses that may have mentioned or contained their son’s name. ... We stand by this 100 percent.”

UM Athletic Director Blake James said the Hurricanes are fully cooperating in the investigation.

“Right now, all we’re doing is just working on gathering information and cooperating with whatever entity it is that we need to, to get through this,” he said just before the UM-Duke football game last Friday. “We’ll get through this at some point and then we’ll talk about where we’re at and what we’re doing.’’

Herald writer Susan Miller Degnan contributed to this report.