Former University of Maryland football and basketball player Mike Anderson has been at the center of two investigations into NCAA rules violations involving area basketball players. The latest concerned Terrapins freshman forward Travis Garrison and resulted in the school reporting minor violations to the NCAA and sending a letter of disassociation to Anderson, asking him to stay away from Maryland athletes.
A law firm hired by Maryland officials informed the NCAA in a report Oct. 14 that Anderson gave Garrison car rides as well as a ticket to a Washington Wizards game in violation of NCAA amateurism rules, according to a copy of the report obtained by The Washington Post. As is often the case when a school self-reports a violation, Garrison was declared ineligible until the NCAA reviewed the report. After the NCAA agreed with Maryland that only secondary rules violations occurred, Garrison repaid Anderson $75 for the ticket and was declared eligible. He did not miss any games or practices. The issue has not previously been made public.
This past summer, a West Virginia University investigation found Anderson made improper cash payments to freshman point guard Jonathan Hargett, sources said. One of the nation's most highly recruited players as a high school senior, Hargett was dismissed from the team and the school said it would not petition for his reinstatement.
In a report sent to the NCAA by West Virginia, the school's investigators stated that "there is reason to believe" Anderson worked as an intermediary for Gregory Holloway, a District financial adviser and businessman, according to sources with knowledge of the report. Holloway, the report indicated, wanted to secure Hargett as a potential client if he ever played professionally.
Anderson, 35, denied any wrongdoing in an interview Tuesday evening and said he views himself as a mentor to young athletes. He said he works for Holloway, primarily doing research on government contracts or real estate investment work, and has never tried to help him obtain clients. He refused to discuss the Garrison investigation. He acknowledged that he and Holloway gave Hargett and his mother money, but said it was to save her from being evicted and having her electricity cut off.
Holloway declined an interview request when approached by reporters at his office Jan. 28.
Anderson was one of the top running backs in the Washington area in 1983 and 1984 as a junior and a senior at DeMatha High, the same school Garrison attended. Anderson's signing with Maryland was considered a coup by the program, but he was diagnosed with leukemia as a freshman. He recovered to play his senior season in 1989 and also was a reserve on the basketball team.
After graduating from Maryland in 1991, Anderson worked for a federal government youth leadership program, he said, and often spoke to groups about his recovery. Subsequently, he worked for a sports agent, former NBA and Maryland basketball player Len Elmore, as a personal assistant to clients, Elmore said.
Several people, including Elmore, said in 2001 that Holloway and Anderson informed them Holloway planned to offer financial management services to professional athletes. "[Anderson] told me Greg was trying to get into the money-managing business," Elmore said.
According to an e-mail Anderson sent to another top Washington area high school basketball player, a copy of which was obtained by The Post, the former Maryland player said he and Holloway were partners with NBA players Sam Cassell of the Milwaukee Bucks and Walt Williams of the Houston Rockets in a company called Signature Management & Consulting.
Anderson wrote that Signature "manages the business and financial affairs of pro athletes, including Walt and Sam."
Cassell declined to comment through a Milwaukee Bucks spokesman and Williams's agent, Mark Bartlestein, also declined to comment.
Anderson denied knowledge of the e-mail.
Said Sonny Vaccaro, the Adidas executive and basketball powerbroker: "I met Anderson and [Holloway] during the summer. Greg was a financial guy and he wanted to get into financial planning for some of the players."
Former Magruder High standout Isaiah Swann, now a junior at Oak Hill Academy in southwestern Virginia, said he was approached by Anderson. "He told me who he was and said he was not an agent, he just helps people out," Swann said, saying he gave Anderson his phone number and Anderson called him periodically.
"I knew what he was trying to do," Swann said. "I had a feeling. That's why I didn't get involved with him. Then when I heard about Jonathan Hargett, I thought, 'What if that was me?' "
Asked why he thought Anderson tried to establish a relationship with him, Swann said: "So I'd have to give back to him, probably. They do something for me, then I feel I have to do something for them. That's basically how it works."
When told of Swann's version of events, Anderson said, "That's totally not true."
"I would have advised these guys to have Greg be their financial adviser if they had gotten to that level [pro basketball] but that was not the nature of what our relationship was," Anderson said. "That was not the motive and stuff behind me developing relationships with players. Bottom line, regardless of what people think or what Sonny Vaccaro thinks."
The conduct of financial planners seeking clients is becoming a growing concern to the NCAA. With the multimillion dollar contracts now common in pro sports, young athletes have large sums of money to invest. Unlike agents, financial planners are virtually unregulated.
In its report, Maryland told the NCAA that Anderson was in "no way affiliated with the agent business and his relationship with" Garrison was not based on the possibility that Garrison "might someday need representation as a professional athlete." But the report made no mention of the possibility of Holloway one day being Garrison's financial adviser.
"Certainly the potential [for problems] is there because contracts are so immense and the financial adviser's cut is so large," said Bill Saum, the NCAA's director of agent, gambling and amateurism activities. "Everybody is trying to make a buck off pro athletes. What we're trying to do is educate athletes to make decisions that are in their best interests."
Holloway is a CPA who founded Holloway and Company and has worked for the Government Accounting Office and Mitchell & Titus, a well-known accounting firm. Holloway also operates GLM, a company linked to a controversial housing deal in Washington this year that involved the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In March, Holloway received a license to promote boxing matches in the District, and Holloway and Company sponsors a college summer basketball team that plays at Georgetown in the Kenner League. Anderson served as coach in 2001 and Hargett played on the team. Garrison played on the 2002 team.
"What's funny about the whole thing is . . . I can understand how everything looks," Anderson said. "And it's hard to believe that there are truly people out here that really do care, that truly want to do right by kids and truly are doing stuff for the right intentions. Because like I told you, if you line up 10 people that look just like me, that have Kenner League teams, I would be honest with you, eight of them are using them just to gain relationships and sell those kids to agents. It's real. But why did I do it? Because I wanted to be able to get them away from the negative, in order to get them away from the negative you have to create something for them that is going to be positive."
In the case of Hargett, things went horribly wrong. Even before he got to West Virginia, Hargett had been described as "a poster child for all the abuse" in high school basketball. A talented point guard who some once compared to Philadelphia 76ers guard Allen Iverson, Hargett grew up in Richmond and attended Highland Springs High until January 1999, midway through his sophomore year. At the urging of a former Alabama assistant coach who had been banished from the NCAA for recruiting violations, he went to Mount Zion Christian Academy in Durham, N.C., a non-accredited school best known as the last stop for Tracy McGrady before he went to the NBA. After a dispute between the Mount Zion coach, Joel Hopkins, and school officials, Hopkins and most of the team, including Hargett, left in February 2001.
They formed Emmanuel Christian, an unaccredited one-room "academy" whose entire student body consisted of the basketball team. Hargett completed his junior year there, but the school folded in October 2001 and he wound up at National Christian Academy in Fort Washington, living in his coach's basement during his senior season.
An assistant basketball coach, whom Anderson identified as Mike White at Mount Zion, introduced the point guard to Anderson "as a result of the student-athlete's athletics abilities," according to West Virginia's report to the NCAA.
Anderson said their relationship "got really close" when Hargett came to the area.
"This is a kid that's like a little brother to me, that I love," Anderson said. "He was a kid that was in need of a mentor like myself. A family that had been through hell and back. [His mother] had struggled her whole life to try to provide for the kids, to try to make a way for her kids and it's just been extremely difficult for her. She and Jonathan have been through so much there were very few people that she could trust. When I met her we just bonded and I was one of the few people that she could trust. And when she had a crisis in her life and she needed somebody and she reached out to somebody, I was the one that she reached out to."
Anderson said he gave several "gifts" to the family, using mostly his own money and sometimes sending it via Western Union. Anderson said he couldn't remember the exact amount but estimated he gave more than $1,000 but less than $10,000 and that Holloway sent money at least once.
Nancy Hargett-Thomas, Hargett's mother, acknowledged in a phone interview last month receiving the money, calling it a donation, rather than an inducement to hire Holloway in the future as a financial manager. "They did not ask us to sign a contract or make any agreements," she said. "They gave us the money as a gift. Other people have helped us out."
West Virginia's report to the NCAA last summer concluded that Anderson and Holloway hoped that they would one day "advise the student-athlete on issues related to his finances and investments if the student-athlete were to become a professional basketball player."
"There is reason to believe that the mentor provided financial assistance to the student-athlete and his mother as incentive for the student-athlete to later employ the mentor's company," West Virginia stated in its report.
Anderson called the West Virginia report "totally inaccurate."
"But I can understand how it could look. I can definitely understand how it could look," Anderson said. "The facts, things aren't always, perception isn't always reality and that's the perception from whatever investigation stuff that they have, I can understand how they can think that. But it's not the truth."
The Mountaineers' two-month investigation, completed in June, uncovered minor infractions by the school. Much of the four-page report sent to the NCAA centered on Hargett. The NCAA cleared West Virginia of any wrongdoing, but Hargett's playing career has been derailed. He has a severe knee injury and is out of college basketball. Hargett-Thomas said she is seeking financing to pay for treatment and Anderson said there is a dispute over whether West Virginia should pay for it.
As of now, any hopes of an NBA career worth millions seem unlikely to be realized.
"I have to take responsibility for my part in it," Anderson said. "If I had never done anything for him, none of this stuff would have happened.
"If I had the same situation that came up again and that kid and his mother needed me, I would be there for them again."
Garrison and Maryland avoided major pitfalls. Maryland was informed last summer by someone involved in the Hargett investigation that Garrison may have accepted gifts from Anderson. In interviews with West Virginia's investigators, Anderson acknowledged that besides Hargett, he had "mentored" Garrison as well, according to Maryland's report.
Because Anderson is a former Maryland player and a member of the school letterman's club, he was, under NCAA bylaws, an official representative of the Terrapins. Had it been determined that Anderson gave gifts to Garrison with the intent of steering him to the Terrapins, Maryland could have faced NCAA sanctions.
Maryland hired Bond Schoeneck & King, an Overland Park, Kan.,-based law firm that specializes in NCAA compliance. The firm's investigators conducted an investigation that lasted several months before reporting the infraction. The firm concluded that "Anderson unintentionally violated NCAA legislation," according to the report, and that there was "no evidence that Anderson has recruited or been asked to recruit, prospective student-athletes for" Maryland.
According to Maryland's report, Garrison met Anderson between 1999 and 2000, Garrison's sophomore year at DeMatha. Anderson was at the school to deliver a motivational speech to the entire school. Garrison, "impressed by Anderson's story," the report stated, approached him after the presentation and the two exchanged numbers.
Former DeMatha coach Morgan Wootten, Garrison's high school coach, said he was unaware of the extent of Anderson's relationship with Garrison until contacted by Maryland's lawyers this past summer.
"It was all kind of stunning to me," Wootten said.
Asked about Anderson last summer, Garrison said, "I know of him" and said he preferred not to comment further.
Maryland freshman guard Chris McCray, an All-Met last season at Fairmont Heights High in Capitol Heights and one of Garrison's closest friends, said he met Anderson through Garrison.
"He's just Travis's mentor," McCray said over the summer. "He and Travis talk a lot when Travis gets in trouble. He just always has advice and helps us out."
McCray said Anderson never tried to involve McCray or Garrison in his business dealings. Mostly, McCray said, Anderson put pressure on the two to improve their schoolwork so they would be eligible to play at Maryland.
"If we would go out or something, his phone would be ringing," McCray said. "It would be NBA players. He told us he works with clients and said this never has to do with Travis or me, it has to do with life."
Maryland Coach Gary Williams said he was unaware of the extent of Garrison's relationship with Anderson.
"I knew Mike had been close to all the DeMatha players over the years, that doesn't mean you do anything," Williams said. "Any person close to a player can be close to a player. There's nothing wrong with that. . . . You can only do so much. Just because you're recruiting a kid, you can't change a relationship that has been there for a while. It also doesn't mean we had anything to do with Mike Anderson. We won a national championship. We recruit on the up and up."
In the interview Tuesday, Anderson said he and Holloway regret what happened to Hargett.
"We feel terrible about the situation," Anderson said. "We're hurt about it, yes. This is a lesson to be learned. And I tell everybody, I'm not totally innocent in this stuff. I did break a rule. I didn't do my homework. I didn't intend to break a rule. I wasn't trying to get anybody hurt."