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‘Hall of Fame coaches should be scared:’ FBI’s college basketball probe reportedly contains bombshells

(Jae C. Hong/AP)

Former Louisville coach Rick Pitino might not be the only big name relegated to the proverbial sideline as the FBI continues its investigation into college basketball recruiting. Multiple reports this week indicated that the scandal could yet mushroom, implicating more of the sport’s most prominent coaches.

Up to three dozen Division I programs could be facing NCAA violations as a result of the probe, including some perennial March Madness stalwarts, according to a report from ESPN’s Mark Schlabach. A second report went even further: “The breadth of potential NCAA rules violations uncovered is wide enough to fundamentally and indelibly alter the sport of college basketball,” wrote Yahoo’s Pete Thamel.

“This goes a lot deeper in college basketball than four corrupt assistant coaches,” one of Thamel’s sources said. “When this all comes out, Hall of Fame coaches should be scared, lottery picks won’t be eligible to play and almost half of the 16 teams the NCAA showed on its initial NCAA tournament show this weekend should worry about their appearance being vacated.”

Those 16 teams, in case you were wondering:

The possible violations would be revealed via “information included in wiretap conversations from the defendants and financial records, emails and cellphone records seized from NBA agent Andy Miller,” Schlabach reported, and would “involve illegal cash payments to prospects and their families, as well as players and their families receiving tens of thousands of dollars from agents while they were still playing in college.” Thamel reported that the FBI has recordings of 4,000 telephone conversations related to its investigation.

The programs trying to “buy players,” according to one of Schlabach’s sources, were not mid-major programs trying to get to the top, but “teams that are already there.”

Louisville fired Pitino, a member of the basketball Hall of Fame who has won two NCAA titles, in September over his alleged knowledge of a scheme with an Adidas executive to steer top recruits to Louisville via six-figure payments to their families. Attorneys for the executive, Jim Gatto, were unsuccessful in their attempt to have a federal wire-fraud charge against him thrown out Thursday, Schlabach reported.

Another former Adidas executive, Merl Code, and former sports agent Christian Dawkins also face single counts of wire fraud. They, too, were unsuccessful in their attempt to have the charges thrown out Thursday. Charges filed against Jonathan Brad Augustine, a former AAU director in Orlando, were thrown out earlier this week. He had been accused of conspiring with the others to steer recruits to Louisville and Miami but, according to Schlabach, the charges were dropped because he never actually gave the recruits any of the money from the defendants, instead keeping it for himself.

Former assistant coaches from USC, Oklahoma State, Auburn and Arizona face separate charges over their alleged involvement in schemes uncovered by the FBI.

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