Four college basketball assistant coaches have been charged in corruption scheme

By Scooby Axson
September 26, 2017

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has charged several college coaches in conjunction with a corruption scheme saying that those coaches, advisors and others lied and used their stature to influence high school recruits to sign with schools.

Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans, Auburn assistant Chuck Person, Emanuel "Book" Richardson of Arizona and USC assistant Tony Bland and six others have each been charged in the corruption and fraud scheme.

According to court documents, Evans, Richardson, and Bland received benefits in "excess of $10,000 under a Federal program involving a grant, contract, subsidy, loan, guarantee, insurance and other form of Federal Assistance."

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York laid out the charges in a Tuesday press conference, saying the scheme is the "dark belly" of college basketball.

Evans, Richardson, and Bland face a combined 11 charges, including conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, wire fraud conspiracy and travel act conspiracy.

Authorities say that Person agreed to accept $50,000 in bribes from a cooperating witness for the government in exchange for using his position at Auburn to steer student-athletes to retain the services of an agent.

Person is being charged with six counts, including solicitation of bribes, bribery conspiracy, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Auburn suspended Person without pay following his arrest.

"Moreover, many such coaches have enormous influence over the student-athletes who play for them, in particular with respect to guiding those student-athletes through the process of selecting agents and other advisers when they prepare to leave college and enter the NBA," the complaints said.

"The nature of the charges brought by the federal government are disturbing," NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement. "We have no tolerance whatsoever for this alleged behavior. Coaches hold a unique position of trust with student athletes and their families and these bribery allegations, if true, suggest an extraordinary and despicable breach of that trust. We learned of these charges this morning and of course will support the ongoing criminal federal investigation."

Evans joined Brad Underwood's staff at Oklahoma State in the 2016 offseason after four seasons at South Carolina under Frank Martin.

Richardson has been an assistant on Sean Miller's staff for 11 seasons, including two at Xavier before Miller was hired by Arizona. Person, who led Auburn to the Elite Eight as a player in 1986, was hired by Bruce Pearl in the spring of 2014. Bland has been a USC assistant since the 2013-14 season. All four coaches have been suspended by their schools.

“We are still learning the facts of this matter, but these allegations, if true, are profoundly upsetting to me,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a letter. The Pac-12 is the lone conference to have two assistants arrested so far.

USC announced it hired former FBI director Louis J. Freeh to conduct an investigation into the allegations against Bland.

Arizona said in a statement that it learned of the investigation this morning and it "will cooperate fully with authorities as they move through their investigation."

The head of the sportswear company is Adidas head of sports marketing James Gatto, who is accused of paying high school players to go to Adidas sponsored schools for the benefit of signing with the company at a later time.

Several other defendants are being accused of making payments to a high school player so he could sign with the University of Louisville.

The NCAA has already suspended Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino for the first five Atlantic Coast Conference games this upcoming season following an investigation into the program's basketball escorts case.

“UofL is committed to ethical behavior and adherence to NCAA rules; any violations will not be tolerated,” Louisville interim president Gregory Postel said in a statement. “We will cooperate fully with any law enforcement or NCAA investigation into the matter.”

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