Players associated with NC State, North Carolina and Duke were specifically mentioned Friday in a report by Yahoo Sports providing details into a federal investigation on corruption in college basketball recruiting.
The report includes documents from Christian Dawkins, an employee of the sports agent firm ASM Sports, itemizing payments to players from schools all across the county targeted by Dawkins and his boss Andy Miller as potential future clients.
Among those named are former Wolfpack star Dennis Smith Jr., ex-Tar Heels Brice Johnson and Tony Bradley, and current Duke center Wendell Carter Jr.
Although the involvement of players from such high-profile programs has garnered headlines and over-the-top reaction from many — including ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith — the involvement of UNC and Duke appears to be minimal.
State may find itself in a more difficult position because of the amount of money that has been associated with Smith.
According to a spreadsheet of expenses incurred by Dawkins, who is awaiting trial on felony charges of wire fraud and money laundering, Smith received payments or loans totaling $73,500 while he was still in high school.
Smith played one season with the Wolfpack and was taken by the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of last summer’s NBA draft. He signed a five-year contract that pays him $3.22 million this season and increases to $7.7 million by 2021-22.
State athletic director Debbie Yow, in a statement responding to the Yahoo Sports story, said that school officials were unaware of the payments or any other circumstances that might have jeopardized Smith’s eligibility with the Wolfpack.
She also made public a letter in which State disassociated itself with ASM Sports and Miller, who has since been decertified as an NBA agent.
“We learned of the report this morning and it is the first we’ve heard about this information,” Yow said in the statement. “The report involves an agent NC State disassociated with in 2012. Of course, we will fully cooperate with any investigations or inquiries.”
Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts, who was hired after Smith left the program, had no comment when asked about the Yahoo Sports report at a regularly scheduled media availability Friday, saying that he had “nothing to add” to Yow’s statement.
Like Yow, athletic officials at UNC and Duke also pledged their cooperation to the investigation that has sent shockwaves throughout the college basketball world.
But they appear to have much less to worry about.
Johnson appears on Dawkins’ spreadsheet for an expenditure of $100.09 for dinner at Carrabas on March 1, 2016, with his high school coach, Dion Bathea. Bradley was also named as a player that was treated to dinner by Dawkins, though his name is not included on any of the documents made public by Yahoo Sports on Friday.
Bradley’s father told Inside Carolina that he and his son did meet with the agent, but only after he had declared for the NBA draft. He is now a member of the Utah Jazz.
Meeting with an agent is not against NCAA rules, as long as no contracts are signed or payments accepted. Though accepting the free meal is, NCAA Bylaw 16.01.1.1 would have allowed the players to remain eligible without penalty as long as they made restitution for the amount of the meal.
The bylaw states that when the value of the violation “is $200 or less, the eligibility of the student-athlete shall not be affected conditioned upon the student-athlete repaying the value of the benefit to a charity of his or her choice.”
Duke’s Carter would also be protected by Bylaw 16.01.1.1. But he might not even need to be, since the ledger posting of an expenditure of $106.36 at a LongHorn Steakhouse on Feb. 22, 2016, is for “dinner with Wendell Carter’s mom” and not specifically the player.
In a statement issued Friday, Duke athletic director Kevin White said his school is comfortable with Carter’s continued participation with the Blue Devils.
“Duke immediately reviewed the matter and, based on the available information, determined there are no eligibility issues related to today’s report,” White said in the statement. “Duke has already contacted the NCAA and will continue to work collaboratively with the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference. Duke has an uncompromising commitment to compliance in athletics. That has not, and will not, change.”
Friday’s Yahoo Sports story is the latest chapter in an ongoing saga that began in September, when the U.S. Department of Justice concluded a two-year investigation into bribes paid to top college prospects that were designed to steer them to specific schools and, later, to specific shoe companies and agents once they turn pro.
Indictments were issued against 10 people, including Dawkins, executives at Adidas and college assistant coaches Chuck Person of Auburn, Lamont Evans of Oklahoma State, Emmanuel Richardson of Arizona and Anthony Bland of Southern Cal.
The scandal has already claimed one Hall of Fame coach, Louisville’s Rick Pitino, who was fired after being implicated in the scandal, but not charged.
Regardless of how the criminal cases turn out, a previous Yahoo Sports story — citing unidentified sources — indicated that the FBI investigation would result in more indictments and could “compromise” as many as 50 Division I programs.