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Big East programs implicated in FBI probe into NCAA hoops

Andrew Hattersley and Shane Rene

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Just before the 2017-18 college basketball season tipped off, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York broke headlines when they charged four active assistant basketball coaches with fraud and corruption charges for their role in paying athletes and influencing their college decision.

Friday morning, the second hammer dropped when Yahoo News released federal documents implicating high profile schools, players and coaches including Arizona, Kentucky, Duke, Texas, Michigan State and three Big East schools; Seton Hall, Xavier and Villanova.

Among the Big East players implicated, was former Seton Hall player Isaiah Whitehead, who was with the team for two seasons through the 2016 season. The report alleges Whitehead received $26,136 from ASM sports according to the documents, while the “Pina” document says Whitehead received $37,657 and was setting up a payment plan. Seton Hall responded to the allegations by saying they plan to conduct an internal review.

“We are aware of Yahoo! Sports report. We have taken steps proactively to reach out to the NCAA and the Big East Conference, and while we have not been contacted by investigators, we will be conducting our own internal review.”

DePaul president A. Gabriel Esteban, who held the same position at Seton Hall when Whitehead was recruited through the time he left for the NBA, told the DePaulia because this is a Seton Hall matter, he would defer comment to them.

Former Xavier star Edward Sumner and his father were named in the report for allegedly receiving $7,000 in advances while Sumner was still in school.

Former Villanova players Kyle Lowry, Antonio Pena and Maalik Wayans also appeared in the balance sheets. Pena, Lowry and Wayans allegedly received $5,000, $5,927 and $1,180 respectively.

Stan Van Gundy, who coached Wisconsin during the 1994-1995 season, before moving on to the NBA was critical of not only the coaches, but also college presidents.

“Coaches aren’t blameless, but it starts higher than that. Start with the college presidents,” Van Gundy said to the Charlotte Observer. “They have said it (with their actions): It’s all about money. And if they say anything else, they’re being hypocritical.”

NCAA President Mark Emmert admitted his organization was in serious need of changes and said during an interview with CBS he hopes to have those changes implemented by the beginning of next season.

“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,” Mark Emmert’s statement read. “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.”

That was only the start for some schools, as Friday night ESPN reported Arizona head coach Sean Miller was caught on FBI wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment for star freshman center DeAndre Ayton with Christian Dawkins, one of the key figures in the probe. Miller released a statement Saturday afternoon announcing he would not coach in Saturday night’s road contest against Oregon.

“I believe it is in the best interest of our team that I not coach our team tonight,” Miller said in a statement. “I continue to fully support the University’s efforts to fully investigate this matter and am confident that I will be vindicated. For now, my thoughts are with our team. They are a great group of young men that will support each other and continue their pursuit of winning a Pac-12 championship.”

This is the first known instance where a head coach has been directly implicated in the investigation.

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Big East programs implicated in FBI probe into NCAA hoops