A Yahoo Sports report posted early Friday morning including information from documents and bank records related to the federal investigation into corruption in college basketball names one current and two former University of Kentucky players.
This is the first time that anyone associated with Kentucky’s basketball program has been publicly linked to the federal probe, a years-long investigation that led to several arrests of prominent shoe company executives, assistant coaches and others last fall.
UK Coach John Calipari and top university officials released statements Friday morning, pledging to fully cooperate with “appropriate authorities.”
Here’s how Friday’s report relates to the Kentucky basketball program, how UK has responded to the report, and what is likely to come next:
What’s the latest?
Yahoo’s article details expense reports from former NBA agent Andy Miller, whose agency was raided by federal investigators last year, and his former associate Christian Dawkins, who was one of the figures arrested as a result of the federal investigation. Those records detail cash loans and other expenses for high school and college basketball players and their families.
The Yahoo report notes that Miller has not been charged as part of the investigation and is believed to be cooperating with federal officials in the case.
Dawkins was one of the key figures in the case of Brian Bowen, the former Louisville signee whose family’s alleged involvement in receiving money related to Bowen’s recruitment eventually led to the removal of head coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich. Dawkins was also mentioned prominently in federal documents related to Arizona’s recruitment of a top high school player.
UK Coach John Calipari released the following statement Friday morning: “I have no relationship with Andy Miller or any of his associates. Neither my staff nor I utilized any agent, including Andy Miller or any of his associates, to provide any financial benefits to a current or former Kentucky student-athlete. We will cooperate fully with the appropriate authorities.”
Calipari had a previously scheduled press conference set for Friday afternoon, but he said at that media availability that he had nothing to add to his statement from earlier in the day.
The two former Kentucky basketball players named in Yahoo’s report are Bam Adebayo and Nerlens Noel, and both ex-Wildcats show up with dollar figures next to their names on a balance sheet from Miller’s agency dated, “as of December 31, 2015.”
Adebayo would have been a senior in high school at that time and signed with UK in November 2015. On that balance sheet, there’s a designation of $12,000 next to Adebayo’s name. A separate document from Miller’s agency included in the Yahoo report has an allocation of $36,500 next to Adebayo’s name and includes the designations “bad loan” and “not signed.”
Adebayo played one season at UK and did not sign with Miller’s agency. He is a client of Octagon’s Alex Saratsis.
“As far as I know, Bam has never taken a dime from anybody,” his high school coach, Brandon Clifford, told Herald-Leader on Friday. “He committed himself to doing things the right way.” Clifford said he had spoken to Adebayo since the Yahoo Sports report became public knowledge Friday.
Noel has a loan figure of $4,350 next to his name on the balance sheet. The only date on the document is the “as of Dec. 31, 2015” designation, and Noel was a professional basketball player and a client of Miller’s agency from 2013 to 2016.
He signed with Miller in 2013 after playing one season for UK and left the agency a little more than a year ago. The documents do not specify whether or not the loan came before he was signed to the agency.
Noel’s name was actually linked to Miller’s in a New York Times article in May 2012, while he was still a senior in high school and shortly after he signed with Kentucky.
That article, reported by Pete Thamel, also one of the reporters on Yahoo’s post Friday, said NCAA officials had been looking into Noel’s relationship with a former teacher at his high school who had a link on his LinkedIn page directing people to the website of Miller’s sports agency. In the article, the teacher said he had no formal affiliation with Miller and had never received money from him.
The New York Times article from 2012 also noted that NCAA officials planned to look further into Noel’s finances, specifically mentioning flights to UK and U of L from when Noel was a recruit that were not paid for by the universities.
Noel was ultimately cleared to play for UK in the 2012-13 season.
The Yahoo report lists several current college basketball players and/or families of those players as having met with Christian Dawkins, and Kevin Knox’s name is on that list.
Knox was a five-star recruit in the class of 2017 and is UK’s leading scorer so far this season. He’s projected as a lottery pick in this year’s NBA Draft.
High school and college players are not prohibited under NCAA rules from meeting with agents, but such players are not allowed to receive extra benefits. Dawkins’ expense reports, according to the Yahoo report, indicate that he paid for the meals of the players and families he met with. The report does not specifically say, however, that Knox or anyone associated with him actually had a meal with Dawkins.
Knox’s name also did not show up in any of the actual documents related to the federal investigation that Yahoo posted along with its report.
Knox’s father, also named Kevin Knox, told the Herald-Leader on Friday that he has never met Dawkins or Andy Miller. He also says he expects his son to play Saturday night against Missouri.
John Calipari said Friday afternoon that he expects Knox to play Saturday.
What it means for UK
It’s important to note that no employee of the University of Kentucky — including head coach John Calipari — was mentioned in the documents uncovered by the Yahoo Sports report Friday or the report itself.
The two former players mentioned in Friday’s report — Nerlens Noel and Bam Adebayo — played one season at Kentucky and did not play for any of the program’s Final Four or national championship teams. Noel’s team missed the NCAA Tournament after he suffered a knee injury late in the 2012-13 season. Adebayo’s team was eliminated in the Elite Eight last season.
Kevin Knox’s father told SEC Country on Friday that he has spoken to UK officials, who have not told him anything related to his son’s eligibility. No dollar amount was associated with Knox in the report, and he was not mentioned in any of the documents related to the investigation that Yahoo included with its report.
If there is a meal linked to Knox or his family, the cost would likely be far less than, for example, the nearly $800 in impermissible benefits that former UK player John Wall was forced to pay back during his freshman season. Wall missed just one regular-season game as a result of that case.
UK President Eli Capilouto said Friday morning that the school will conduct an internal review and cooperate with authorities in the case. Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart noted the school had not been contacted by the FBI, but athletics officials had already contacted both the NCAA and Southeastern Conference.
Before Calipari’s press conference Friday afternoon, UK deputy athletics director DeWayne Peevy directed reporters to the statements from Capilouto, Barnhart and Calipari from earlier in the day.
“We do not have any additional information to share with you at this time,” Peevy said. “Once we do have additional information to share, we will communicate that when appropriate.”
Who else is mentioned?
Yahoo’s report and the accompanying documents detail alleged payments of more than $1,000 from Andy Miller’s agency to current players and/or their families from Texas and Southern Cal, as well as alleged payments to players and/or families of players from Kansas, North Carolina State, Washington, Maryland, Xavier, Wichita State, South Carolina, Louisiana State, Seton Hall, Utah and Clemson while they were in school.
Like Adebayo, not all of the players mentioned signed with Miller’s agency.
Yahoo’s documentation of Christian Dawkins’ expense reports show the mother of current Michigan State star Miles Bridges also received “hundreds of dollars” in advances.
The list of players and/or families who had meals or meetings with Dawkins includes Knox, Duke’s Wendell Carter and Alabama’s Collin Sexton. That list includes former players from North Carolina, Virginia, Texas, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Iowa State and Creighton and says those players and/or their families had meals expensed by Dawkins or meetings with him while still in school.
Neither the report nor the accompanying federal documents indicate that college coaches were complicit in payments or involved in steering any of these players to specific agents.
The biggest question in the short term is whether any of the current players mentioned in Friday’s report will be held out of games this weekend as a precautionary measure.
Kevin Knox Sr.’s comments Friday morning indicate that his son is expected to play for the Wildcats on Saturday night, and UK Coach John Calipari didn’t say anything at Friday’s press conference to suggest otherwise.
“At this point, I believe so,” Calipari responded when asked if Knox would play Saturday. “Unless there’s something that I don’t know.”
The NCAA will surely investigate cases related to Friday’s Yahoo report — as noted, UK said Friday that it will conduct an internal review — but the NCAA also might not ultimately receive all of the documents related to the federal investigation.
The Herald-Leader was told recently that federal investigators have largely kept NCAA officials out of their investigation, for the time being, and NCAA enforcement staff — as of last month — had not been asked to play an active role in the recently formed Commission on College Basketball’s probe into the sport.
NCAA President Mark Emmert released a statement in response to the Yahoo story Friday: “These allegations, if true, point to systematic failures that must be fixed and fixed now if we want college sports in America. Simply put, people who engage in this kind of behavior have no place in college sports. They are an affront to all those who play by the rules.
“Following the Southern District of New York’s indictments last year, the NCAA Board of Governors and I formed the independent Commission on College Basketball, chaired by Condoleezza Rice, to provide recommendations on how to clean up the sport. With these latest allegations, it’s clear this work is more important now than ever.
“The Board and I are completely committed to making transformational changes to the game and ensuring all involved in college basketball do so with integrity. We also will continue to cooperate with the efforts of federal prosecutors to identify and punish the unscrupulous parties seeking to exploit the system through criminal acts.”
Emmert told the Herald-Leader and others at the NCAA Convention in Indianapolis last month that the Commission on College Basketball’s recommendations would be made public at an NCAA meeting in late April.