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Former Southern California associate head coach violated NCAA ethical conduct rules

A former Southern California men’s basketball associate head coach violated NCAA ethical conduct rules when he accepted a $4,100 bribe from a business management company to influence student-athletes, according to a decision released by the Division I Committee on Infractions.

The conduct at issue in this case was related to a broader scheme that involved money and influence at the intersection of college and professional basketball. The scheme resulted in the arrest and prosecution of multiple individuals — including college basketball coaches — on conspiracy and bribery charges, and it led to significant NCAA reforms.

This case originated Sept. 26, 2017, when FBI agents arrested the men’s basketball associate head coach in connection with an indictment and federal criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The complaint alleged that the associate head coach accepted cash bribes from a professional sports agent in exchange for influencing student-athletes to retain the services of the agent’s management company when the student-athletes entered the NBA. 

As part of his plea deal for federal proceedings, the former associate head coach acknowledged that he had accepted a bribe during a July 2017 meeting with financial advisors and business managers in exchange for directing basketball players to retain their services.

Government recordings from that meeting and a second meeting in August 2017 — which were evidence in federal court — revealed the associate head coach had touted his ability to connect the company with current or prospective student-athletes, noting that he had heavy influence over players’ decisions.

The meeting violated NCAA rules because athletics department staff members are prohibited from receiving benefits for facilitating or arranging a meeting between a student-athlete and an agent, financial advisor, or representative of an agent or advisor. Athletics staff members also are prohibited from representing, directly or indirectly, any individual in the marketing of their athletics ability or reputation to an agency and from accepting compensation for the representation.

The committee specifically noted, “The associate head coach demonstrated a recurring lack of judgment that resulted in unethical conduct and representation violations for both himself and USC.”  The committed added, “Although (the associate head coach’s) behavior may have originated out of friendship with the agent associate, it waded into murky ethical waters and ultimately intersected with the agent associate’s corruption scheme within college basketball.”

Despite the former associate head coach’s underlying violations, the committee noted that unlike other individuals in similar cases, he met his obligation when he participated in the NCAA investigation and provided information relevant to the investigation. The committee also noted that the school displayed exemplary cooperation and self-imposed significant and meaningful penalties in line with the NCAA membership’s penalty guidelines.

The committee classified the case as Level I-mitigated for the school and Level I-standard for the former associate head coach. The committee used the Division I membership-approved infractions penalty guidelines to prescribe the following measures:

  • Two years of probation.
  • A $5,000 fine plus 1% of the men’s basketball program budget.
  • A reduction of men’s basketball scholarships by a total of two during the 2018-19 academic year (self-imposed by the university).
  • A reduction of men’s basketball official visits to 20 during the 2018-19/2019-20 rolling two-year period (self-imposed by the university).
  • A reduction in the number of men’s basketball recruiting person days by 20 during the 2018-19 academic year (self-imposed by the university).
  • A three-year show-cause order for the former associate head coach. During that period, any NCAA member school employing him must restrict him from any athletically related duties unless it shows cause why the restrictions should not apply.

Members of the Committee on Infractions are drawn from the NCAA membership and members of the public. The members of the panel who reviewed this case are Carol Cartwright, president emeritus at Bowling Green and Kent State; Stephen Madva, attorney in private practice; Vincent Nicastro, chief hearing officer and deputy commissioner and chief operating officer for the Big East Conference; Kay Norton, president emeritus at Northern Colorado; Joe Novak, former head football coach at Northern Illinois; Roderick Perry, director of athletics at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; and Sankar Suryanarayan, university counsel at Princeton.