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Friday, September 20, 2019

College Basketball

Report: Kansas basketball facing allegations of major NCAA violations

Bill Self

The Kansas Jayhawks’ basketball program is reportedly set to be hit with a notice of allegations detailing major NCAA rules violations.

According to Jesse Newell and Steve Vockrodt of the Kansas City Star, the imminent notice will allege “multiple major violations” in the men’s basketball program. It is not clear what the nature of the violations will be, and no one within the Kansas athletic department is commenting at this time.

The Jayhawks have been linked to a pay-for-play recruiting scheme that has been the subject of a highly-publicized FBI investigation. If the NCAA alleges level 1 violations, Kansas would be subject to the most severe punishments, including postseason bans and a loss of scholarships.

The Kansas program has been one of the sport’s most successful for over a decade. They won at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title for 14 consecutive seasons from 2005 to 2018. During that span, they appeared in three Final Fours and won a championship in 2008.

During the initial round of charges, former Adidas representative Jim Gatto said he had made payments to former Kansas players. Things got even murkier when the NCAA controversially suspended sophomore Silvio de Sousa, whose guardian allegedly took payments from an agent and a Kansas booster. How aware coach Bill Self and his assistants were of these alleged payments is unclear. Either way, it looks like the NCAA is prepared to come down hard on Kansas.

Is this the reason why Lynn Swann suddenly resigned as USC AD?

Lynn Swann’s sudden resignation as USC’s athletic director on Monday caught many people by surprise. After all, Swann managed to hang onto the gig for 3.5 years despite being terrible at it, by most accounts.

So why did he resign from his position? What was the impetus? It may have been the result of Swann being exposed as hired despite his lack of qualifications due to cronyism from the school’s biggest donor.

The Los Angeles Times’ Harriet Ryan and Matt Hamilton published a lengthy exposé on Sept. 5 on billionaire B. Wayne Hughes Sr., the founder of Public Storage. The Times said Hughes had donated around $400 million to USC, mostly anonymously. They reported Hughes donated $360 million to the school from 2010-2015. His donations reportedly have been focused on the athletic department.

Hughes attended USC and was close with many of the Trojans’ football players, such as OJ Simpson, Al Cowlings, and Swann.

When Pat Haden stepped down as USC’s athletic director in April 2016, the school reportedly retained a search firm to help identify candidates. They whittled down a list of 200 to around seven candidates, according to the LA Times.

From the Times:

Multiple rounds of interviews winnowed 200 prospects to about seven finalists. One person knowledgeable about the search process said Hughes indicated to (Former USC president Max) Nikias that he preferred Swann for the job. Hughes’ attorney said it would be “wholly inaccurate” to say he had lobbied Nikias to appoint Swann.

Swann had never run an athletic program, let alone worked at a university, and he had scant management experience beyond serving on the boards of companies and charities. USC’s athletic director would oversee a budget of $100 million, 21 varsity teams and at least 650 student-athletes.

Some of Swann’s moves included announcing he was keeping Clay Helton despite fans calling for the football coach’s job; banning the USC Song Girls from performing at basketball games; and generally being absent amid a school scandal.

Swann kept the job despite all that. But two business days after the LA Times exposed Swann’s relationship with Hughes, and a quote in the story said Hughes might be the most powerful figure at USC — more powerful than the school president — Swann resigned. Perhaps USC believed that they needed to flex some muscle to show who’s in charge after new president Carol Folt had her power called into question. She may have called for Swann to resign, which he did. And perhaps USC felt comfortable firing Swann because they’ve already gotten so much money from Hughes in donations from 2010-2015.

There is a saying in journalism — also popularized by “All the President’s Men” — to “follow the money.” In this case one need only follow Hughes’ money and relationships to understand how Swann got the job and why he remained in it until recently.

H/T Sports by Brooks

Report: NBA agents refusing to submit to NCAA certification program

NBA logo

The NCAA’s new rules guiding which agents are allowed to represent college athletes has run into another giant roadblock.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, NBA agents are sending a letter informing the NCAA that they will not be registering for the NCAA’s agent certification program.

The NCAA had proposed numerous rules, including one that NBA agents would have to register for a certification program in order to represent student-athletes without them losing eligibility. NBA agents are essentially refusing to play that game, stating that the NCAA should not have regulatory power over who can and can’t represent a student-athlete when agents already have NBPA certification.

This is far from the first issue the NCAA’s proposed regulations have run into. In fact, they had to withdraw one of the certification requirements due to widespread outcry. Now agents are outright refusing to take place in that certification, meaning the whole process has reached a stalemate.

Gilbert Arenas: Duke has paid players $200,000 to play for them

Coach K

Gilbert Arenas has accused Duke of paying players major money to come play for their basketball program.

Stephen A. Smith posted a video on Instagram talking about a new California bill that would allow college athletes to get paid through endorsements. Arenas, who played 11 seasons in the NBA and was a three-time All-Star, responded to the video in the comments.

Arenas says players are already getting paid, and he says he knows of two players in the last five years who were paid $200,000 to attend Duke rather than Kentucky.

The recent FBI college basketball scandal should have opened the eyes of fans to what goes on under the table. Shoe companies are heavily involved in the payments to players, which are often funneled through youth programs to families and handlers.

Duke, under Coach K, is thought to be on a higher level of morality when it comes to running a clean program, but Arenas says they are no different from any other program that’s paying players.

Arenas’ comment should not come as a surprise. We recently published a story about allegations that the highest-profile Duke player of all was paid by Nike to attend the school.

Lynn Swann resigns as USC athletic director

Embattled USC athletic director Lynn Swann has resigned after just over three years on the job.

USC president Carol Folt announced the news Monday afternoon.

Swann is a Pro Football Hall of Famer for his NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but his work with USC has not been exemplary. His handling of the football program has been controversial. He stuck by coach Clay Helton despite widespread calls from fans for the coach’s removal. Swann also came under fire for banning the USC Song Girls under suspicious circumstances.

The school has been marred by scandals during his tenure. Some weren’t his fault, such as the college admissions scandal involving multiple celebrities, plus the investigations into college basketball corruption. However, he never gave off the impression that he had the situation under control. In fact, he was widely criticized for skipping meetings about the school’s ongoing crises in order to go across the country to charge for autographs. Few USC fans will be sorry to see him go.

Michael Avenatti alleges Nike approved payments for Zion Williamson


Attorney Michael Avenatti is once again accusing Nike executives of improper conduct, including approving illegal payments to Zion Williamson and other players.

Avenatti was arrested on March 25 and charged by federal prosecutors for attempting to extort Nike. Avenatti allegedly was threatening to hold a press conference in which he would unveil improper activities between Nike and high school/college programs unless they paid him $25 million.

Avenatti hired legal representation for the extortion case and is seeking to have the charges dismissed on grounds of vindictive and selective prosecution. His attorneys filed a motion in U.S. District Court in New York on Wednesday that included numerous allegations, according to ESPN’s Mark Schlabach.

According to the motion, Avenatti has evidence Nike executives approved cash payments to be made to handlers and family members of amateur players. The payments are often made in an effort to steer an amateur player to a college program sponsored by the shoe company. Adidas was at the center of a college basketball scandal over the past two years for this issue. Avenatti says Nike has engaged in similar practices.

Avenatti claims to have evidence showing a Nike employee was willing to make a $35,000 payment to Zion Williamson, $20,000 for Romeo Langford, and $15,000 for another player. Williamson played his freshman season at Duke, which is a Nike-sponsored school, while Langford went to Indiana, an Adidas school.

Avenatti claims to have gained the evidence and information through former amateur coach Gary Franklin. Franklin coached the California Supreme, a Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) team. Franklin alleges Nike tried to funnel payments through him intended for the handlers and/or family of several players on his teams, such as Deandre Ayton. Franklin retained Avenatti’s services after claiming to have been forced out by Nike once he no longer felt comfortable going along with their scheme.

In April, Avenatti also accused Nike of making payments to the mother of Williamson, who ended up going No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft.

NCAA changes ‘Rich Paul Rule,’ removes degree requirement

Rich Paul

The NCAA created a great deal of controversy recently when it implemented new criteria for agents who are representing student-athletes who want to test the NBA Draft waters, and the rule has already been changed.

On Monday, the NCAA amended a key portion of the new guidelines. Whereas before it was mandatory that any agent representing a player who is testing the NBA Draft must have a college degree, agents now have to either have a bachelor’s degree or be certified by the NBA Players Association.

That is a key distinction, and it was almost certainly added because of the backlash the NCAA received for supposedly targeting NBA superagent Rich Paul. Paul, who represents LeBron James and numerous other star players, has quickly become one of the most powerful agents in sports. He does not have a college degree.

Paul wrote a guest column for The Athletic on Monday in which he criticized the NCAA for creating barriers for young people who do not have the means or desire to attend college. He also said he supported the part of the new rule that requires agents to have three years of experience.

Many believe the situation with Paul and former Syracuse recruit Darius Bazley was part of the inspiration behind the NCAA introducing new criteria, but removing the college degree requirement changes things quite a bit.