The FBI investigation that has rocked the world of college basketball took another turn Wednesday evening, when the University of Alabama announced the resignation of an athletics official who previously worked as an NCAA assistant director of enforcement. Kobie Baker was reportedly involved in one of the major strands of the FBI’s probe, in which college basketball coaches and university staffers are alleged to have taken bribes to steer basketball players toward certain financial advisers.
According to the Tuscaloosa News, an internal investigation by Alabama led to the school’s “belief that [Baker] was involved in a meeting with Atlanta-based adviser Rashan Michel and Auburn assistant coach Chuck Person,” for which the three men were compensated for introducing a highly touted recruit and his father to a financial adviser referred to in complaints as “cooperating witness 1.” That person was identified to The Post by law enforcement officials as Louis Martin “Marty” Blazer III, a Pittsburgh financial adviser who began working as an FBI informant in 2014.
Michel, a former NCAA and NBA referee who owns an Atlanta clothing store popular with many basketball players, and Person, an Auburn assistant coach and former NBA player, were among 10 people charged Tuesday with crimes including bribery and fraud. Others facing accusations related to the FBI’s investigation include coaches at Oklahoma State, Arizona and Southern California, as well as a top Adidas executive.
The sprawling scandal has also taken down Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, who was placed on administrative leave Wednesday amid his protestations that he knew nothing of any wrongdoing. Pitino’s program was allegedly involved in the other major investigative strand, in which top basketball prospects and their families were bribed to commit to Adidas-affiliated schools.
Citing the revelation of Baker as the person identified as “Staff Member-1″ in federal documents, Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports reported that Michel is alleged to have “facilitated the payment of approximately $25,000″ to Baker for arranging the August meeting with the recruit and Blazer. Forde and the Tuscaloosa News reported that the player was likely Collin Sexton, a five-star prospect from Mableton, Ga., who is set to play his freshman season at Alabama after committing to the school in November.
Arriving on Alabama Coach Avery Johnson’s staff in 2015, Baker oversaw “all areas of men’s basketball administration,” including “salaries and benefits, operating expenses, team travel, donor relations, fundraising and scheduling nonconference opponents,” according to his Crimson Tide bio, which was taken down from the Internet on Wednesday evening but reported on by AL.com. His previous roles with the NCAA included assistant director of enforcement for basketball development and associate director of amateurism certification.
“Following yesterday’s reports from New York regarding a Federal investigation of intercollegiate athletics, The University of Alabama Department of Athletics immediately initiated an internal review of our men’s basketball operations,” Crimson Tide Athletic Director Greg Byrne said in a statement. “As a result, we have accepted the resignation effective today of Kobie Baker, a men’s basketball administrator. Our review has not identified any NCAA or SEC rules violations nor the involvement of any other coach or staff member. We have notified both of the governing bodies of the actions we have taken. As always, we will continue to be proactive in our compliance efforts.”
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