The FBI investigation into college basketball took a turn toward the Triangle on Friday.
Yahoo Sports, citing “hundreds of pages of documents” that it said provided “a clear-eyed view into the pervasive nature of the game’s underground economy,” named former and current Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State players who it said were alleged to have received “impermissible benefits and preferential treatment for players and families of players.”
The Triangle players were among those named in discovery documents in the federal investigation into college basketball, according to Yahoo Sports. Alabama, Kentucky, Michigan State, Southern Cal and other schools were also named as having players who are alleged to have received benefits.
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Former N.C. State player Dennis Smith Jr. was listed on an ASM Sports agency balance sheet under the subheading “Loan to Players.” The athletes on the list were high school or college players “receiving four-figure and five-figure payments from ASM Sports,” the report said. The balance sheet, dated Dec. 31, 2015, notes that Smith had received a loan for $43,500. Other documents in the Yahoo report state that Smith owed $73,500 in loans he received from ASM.
Smith was the ninth pick, by the Dallas Mavericks, during last summer’s NBA draft. He is not represented by ASM.
According to the Yahoo report, current Duke player Wendell Carter and former UNC player Tony Bradley are also listed among players who met or had meals with former ASM Sports agent Christian Dawkins – one of 10 people arrested in September in connection with the FBI’s investigation into bribery and corruption schemes in college basketball.
An expense report document in the Yahoo report shows that Dawkins listed a $106.36 “Lunch w/ Wendell carter mom” at Longhorn on Feb. 22, 2016. It’s unclear if Carter’s mom, Kylia Carter, paid for her own meal or Dawkins did.
Kylia Carter and Carter’s dad, Wendell Carter Sr., could not be reached for comment. Duke released a statement Friday that said there were no eligibility issues connected to the report.
Asked by reporters about the story while in Los Angeles for the Mavericks game with the Lakers Friday night, Smith declined to discuss any specifics about the Yahoo report. The story adds to the distractions around the Mavericks. Sports Illustrated reported on sexual harassment within the Mavericks front office earlier this week.
“I’m a firm believer in God and everything happens for a reason,” Smith said, according to the Dallas Morning News. “Whether it’s going to strengthen you or destroy you, you make that decision. But since I’ve been here, it’s been a class organization from top to bottom, starting with Mark Cuban and all the way down to players like myself. It’s been great, fantastic.
“I’m here to play basketball. Everything else to me is just noise and I have to block all that out.”
On Friday, N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow released a statement saying the school had no prior knowledge of Smith receiving money from ASM that could have compromised his NCAA eligibility.
“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.”
At a press conference Friday, coach Kevin Keatts declined to comment and referred to Yow’s statement: “I really don’t have anything else to add to (Yow’s statement).”
Yow’s statement said the school had sent the disassociation letter, effective for 10 years, in 2012 to ASM agent Andy Miller. The letter, signed by Carrie Doyle, N.C. State’s senior associate athletic director for compliance, was in response to Miller’s dishonesty about his relationship with Desmond Eastmond, an AAU coach. N.C. State had investigated Eastmond in 2010 to determine if he had provided impermissible benefits to N.C. State athletes.
The school released a copy of the disassociation letter Friday morning. Among other provisions, the letter banned Miller from access to non-public areas of N.C. State athletic facilities. It also stipulates that he could have no contact with “current or future student athletes for any purpose.”
Efforts to reach Miller for comment on Friday were unsuccessful.
Miller has long been a registered sports agent with the N.C. Secretary of State’s Office, but officials there were unaware that he had received a disassociation letter from N.C. State.
“In fact, today is the first we’ve heard of this letter,” Liz Proctor, a spokeswoman for the office, said Friday.
Duke released a statement responding to the Yahoo story on Friday afternoon.
“A Duke student-athlete was identified in a Yahoo! Sports report this morning about men’s college basketball. Duke immediately reviewed the matter and, based on the available information, determined there are no eligibility issues related to today’s report. 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.”
Duke has not addressed whether it had sent a disassociation letter to Miller.
UNC senior associate athletic director Steve Kirschner said Friday, “We have no information on what is mentioned in today’s Yahoo story, but we will cooperate fully with any and all investigations.”
When asked whether or not UNC had also sent a disassociation letter to Miller, Kirschner said UNC was not aware of N.C. State’s disassociation letter and added, “We don’t have an association” with him.
On Oct. 11, 2017, The News & Observer requested from UNC any electronic correspondence between athletic department staff, Michelle Brown, head of academic support for student-athletes, Chancellor Carol Folt, and UNC board of trustees members that mentions the federal investigation into payoffs to players and college coaches and assistants.
That request is still open, according to UNC’s public records requests database.
On Oct. 20, 2017, The News & Observer requested from N.C. State any electronic communication between N.C. State employees, athletic department staff and N.C. State board of trustees members and the NCAA that mentions Smith and the federal investigation into payoffs to players and college coaches and assistants.
On Nov. 7, 2017, N.C. State responded: “Any emails, correspondence, or records pertaining to a student during their enrollment at NC State is protected under FERPA. Current or former students. This includes records or correspondence involving parents.”
The response went on to say: “We have not been part of a federal investigation involving payoffs and college coaches or assistants.”
NCAA President Mark Emmert issued a statement regarding the report by Yahoo on Friday morning.
“These allegations, if true, point to systematic failures that must be fixed and fixed now if we want college sports in America,” Emmert said. “Simply put, people who engage in this kind of behavior have no place in college sports.”
In September, the FBI and other federal authorities announced a sweeping investigation into bribery and corruption in college basketball.
At the core of the investigation was money from athletic apparel giant Adidas allegedly being used to pay the families of basketball recruits in exchange for attending colleges with Adidas deals, to bribe college coaches to veer those players toward certain agents and financial advisers linked to the apparel company.
According to the FBI indictments, families of college basketball recruits were paid $100,000 and more.
NCAA response to Yahoo Sports report
“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.”
— NCAA President Mark Emmert