If the FBI needs more testimony in the wake of its investigation into widespread bribery in college basketball, it may want to give LaVar Ball a call. The famous basketball dad said on a podcast Friday that he’d been approached about his three sons, including former UCLA Bruins star and current L.A. Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball, with illegal offers “every summer.”
“They keep coming every summer to get me to say ‘yes,’ ” the outspoken 48-year-old said on CBS Sports’ “Flagrant Two” podcast. “They offered you money, they offered to take care of the AAU team, they’re gonna give everybody uniforms, everybody shoes. I mean, it’s just, any kind of way.”
Ball, who recently launched his own athletic wear label, Big Baller Brand, said he never accepted anything.
“Word got out that LaVar don’t need that,” he said. “[M]e and my wife, we got a job, we do our thing. And the way we pay our boys, whatever car they want, we get it. That’s a small price to pay when your kid has a scholarship and you don’t have to save no money for that.”
Ball has three basketball-playing sons. Along with Lonzo, 19, there’s also LiAngelo, 18, a current UCLA student-athlete, and LaMelo, 16, who has also committed to the Bruins.
Ball’s comments come amid the unveiling of a federal investigation that has already resulted in the arrests of 10 people accused of bribery and other crimes. Among the 10 arrests were four assistant basketball coaches at Division I schools, who are accused of accepting bribes and steering money toward recruits’ families in an effort to land players with specific financial advisers, business managers and sports agents. Several of those advisers, managers and agents have also been implicated, including a top Adidas executive.
Since coming to light on Tuesday, the scandal has continued to make waves as some of the unidentified coaches and universities in the investigation came to light. The biggest name involved so far is Rick Pitino, who Louisville put on unpaid administrative leave in response to allegations that he had knowledge of an alleged illegal $100,000 payment from an Adidas executive to a recruit’s family. That recruit, believed to be Brian Bowen, has been suspended indefinitely. Pitino was not among those arrested, although he is under FBI investigation, while Bowen’s mother has claimed she had no knowledge of any payment.
The dominoes continued to fall Thursday when the University of Alabama announced the resignation of Kobie Baker, an athletics official who previously worked as an NCAA assistant director of enforcement. He is believed to have participated in meetings with two of those arrested in connection with the investigation this week, Atlanta-based adviser Rashan Michel, who owns a popular clothing store that outfits several NFL and NBA players, and Auburn assistant coach Chuck Person. Baker was not among those arrested.
If stories like Ball’s are true, however, it demonstrates what many have begun to suspect — that this kind of illegal activity among top NCAA Division I recruits is far more common than most people realize.
“[W]e have to understand, by now, that this is how college sports works,” The Post’s Barry Svrluga wrote this week. “The four assistant coaches arrested aren’t victims, for sure, because they surely knew what they were doing was against rules, if not laws. But they are part of a machine that is powered by the basic structure of college sports. When a system has billions of dollars flowing into it — and the NCAA’s contract with CBS and Turner Sports for the NCAA tournament alone is worth $8.8 billion through 2032 — and yet has a major part of the workforce that is unpaid, well, then, how is this not the end result?”
It’s this theory that has others thinking more — and more high-profile — arrests are likely on the way.
“[Investigators] are going to seek to get cooperation from the group arrested and think about whether they can move up the chain,” Lee Richards, a former U.S. attorney and white-collar criminal defense attorney in New York, told The Post’s Will Hobson this week, predicting news of plea deals for the assistant coaches may be imminent. “Typically, the government will be looking for evidence against people with more senior positions involved.”