Lamont Evans Just Won't Go Away
Lamont Evans barely stopped by Stillwater.
Spent one season working on Brad Underwood’s staff. Served a few months as a Mike Boynton assistant, before news broke that he was being investigated by the FBI.
Then he was gone, swiftly.
Or so we thought.
Turns out, Evans’ legacy – and I hate to use the word legacy here – was long lasting.
The NCAA hammered OSU Friday with Evans-associated penalties that were so out of line that the nation, briefly, actually broke out in a show of unity to shout down the decision.
Evans ruined his career and did plenty to tarnish the reputation of Oklahoma State basketball, getting snared in the FBI crackdown of bribery and corruption on the inside of the college game.
Evans and nine others were arrested the morning of Sept. 26, 2017, in an orchestrated operation that revealed the scummy underbelly of the sport that so many had suspected, yet never seen, at least to this extent.
Here’s where the story veers in different directions, and why Friday’s NCAA blow banning the Cowboys from 2021 postseason play and docking them three total scholarships over three years seemed so, well, wrong.
The other schools attached to the FBI investigation had people involved in recruiting improprieties. Evans, according to FBI documents, acted on his own behalf, all in an effort to pad his pocket. And even at that, only modestly, gaining some $22,000 to push current, not future, players toward low-level financial advisors.
Evans’ activities had traced back to 2015, during his time as an assistant at South Carolina, putting an even slimmer figure on the payment.
Most importantly, he was acting alone, for his own good – which the NCAA acknowledged in its own investigation – meaning OSU never benefited.
And yet, the NCAA lowered the boom for what was deemed a Level 1 violation, which OSU officials argued against, to no avail.
Still, no one saw Friday’s harsh penalties coming.
“A postseason ban for kids who were 15 or 16 years old at the time is completely out of bounds,” said an emotional Mike Boynton, who can’t seem to catch a break in his run as Cowboys coach.
Once news broke that the NCAA was revealing its verdict on OSU, anyone with any sense figured on a slap of the wrist, and opportunity for Boynton to finally put the Evans saga behind him, providing more good vibes for what seemed like a long-awaited breakout in 2020-21.
Now the program is reeling, again, although Boynton and Mike Holder won’t go down without a fight, prepared to appeal, and with strong ammunition, shared for all in a statement released Friday:
“The University is stunned by the severity of the penalties and strongly disagrees with them. The penalties do not align with the facts and are unfair and unjust.
“The NCAA agreed with OSU that Lamont Evans acted alone and for his own personal gain. Evans was terminated by OSU on Sept. 28, 2017, within 72 hours of learning of allegations against him.
“The NCAA also agreed that OSU did not benefit in recruiting, commit a recruiting violation, did not play an ineligible player, and did not display a lack of institutional control. As the report documents, OSU cooperated throughout the process, which lasted two years.
“The NCAA appears to have made an arbitrary decision in the sanctions applied to the institution for the egregious actions committed by a former coach that did not result in any benefit for the University.”
Still, it looks like a tough road ahead.
First, Boynton must hang onto as many players as possible. Whenever a school is banned from postseason play, the NCAA allows players to transfer without penalty or delay in eligibility.
That means Isaac Likekele and Yor Anei, and those in the great recruiting class led by Cade Cunningham and Rondel Walker.
If the past several years have been rough, imagine going forward with a skeleton crew minus the stars Boynton and his staff worked so hard to secure.
Talk about a blindside.
During an afternoon Zoom press conference, Holder and Boynton both talked about how well the school cooperated with every step of the investigation, a point the NCAA confirmed and even applauded the university for in its announcement.
Thanks for nothing.
"Our gut feeling was we tried to do the right thing,” Boynton said. “Coach Evans was let go within three days. We needed to find out if there were any other problems, there weren't. No players recruited illegally – any of the stuff you've heard that's egregious.
“We felt good.”
And they should have felt good. Now they feel like they’ve been abused, by a coach who essentially did a drive-thru of Stillwater.
“We were a victim,” Boynton said.
A victim of Evans. And the NCAA.