A day after the attorney for Miami men’s basketball coach Jim Larrañaga said his client was unaware of any impropriety regarding the Hurricanes program, the University of Miami has confirmed the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating a member of the UM coaching staff and a potential recruit.as part of national probe into corruption and bribery in college basketball.
“While we are alarmed and disappointed, we are steadfast in our belief that we must also act with the highest level of integrity and commitment to the pursuit of truth,” UM president Dr. Julio Frenk in a statement addressed to the “University of Miami” family and posted on the school’s website Wednesday evening. “To that end, we have pledged our full and complete cooperation with the Department of Justice Probe as well as to the NCAA, with whom we will jointly review any relevant matters. The legal process and any NCAA joint review will likely take some time, so I urge patience for all who love our University.”
Federal corruption and bribery charges were filed against 10 people tied to college basketball nationwide on Tuesday. Although neither Miami nor any of its coaches or athletes were named in the indictments handed down in New York, a “University-7,” whose description matches Miami, was mentioned in the DOJ complaint against Adidas executive Jim Gatto. Gatto was charged in connection to the large-scale FBI probe.
In the complaint against Gatto, the DOJ alleges that a “Coach-3” from “University-7” was involved with trying to funnel approximately $150,000 to “Player-12,” an unnamed high school basketball player expected to graduate in 2018.
Four assistant basketball coaches — Oklahoma State’s Lamont Evans, Auburn’s Chuck Person, Arizona’s Emanuel Richardson and USC’s Tony Bland — were charged in conjunction with the probe.
No Miami coaches have been charged and in an emailed statement sent to the Sun-Sentinel late Tuesday night, Coral Gables attorney Stuart Z. Grossman confirmed he was Larrañaga’s attorney and wrote: “Please be assured that our beloved coach is unaware of any impropriety on the part of UM basketball and does not know the identity of [the] unnamed, unidentified ‘Coach-3.’ He looks forward to leading the Hurricanes to continued success.”
The complaint against Gatto also states that beginning in July and continuing through this month, Gatto and fellow defendants Merl Code, Christian Dawkins and Jonathan Brad Augustine were in communication with “one more coaches at University-7” to help secure a verbal commitment from “Player-12.”
Later in the complaint, it says that on wiretapped phone calls intercepted by authorities, Gatto and fellow defendant Merl Code discussed “among other things, Coach-3’s request to Gatto that Company-1 make a $150,000 payment to Player-12 in order to prevent Player-12 from committing to attend another NCAA Division I university sponsored by a rival athletic apparel company that had allegedly offered Player-12 a substantial sum of money.”
At this point, the Hurricanes have not secured any verbal commitments for their 2018 recruiting class, though they have hosted some top prospects and are expected to have others make official visits in the coming weeks.
Hurricanes athletic director Blake James issued a statement Tuesday saying, “The University of Miami is aware of the indictments handed down today by the Department of Justice involving several men’s college basketball programs, coaches, financial advisors, agents and apparel executives. As we are just learning the details, we cannot comment on the actions taken today by federal authorities. However, if requested, we will cooperate in any legal or NCAA review of the matter.”
James did not return multiple messages Wednesday.
Around the country, fallout from the probe hit multiple universities.
Legendary basketball coach Rick Pitino was placed on administrative leave by University of Louisville on Wednesday after 16 seasons, three Final Four appearances and one national championship. The school cited the FBI investigation, which didn't name all the schools involved but contained enough details to identify one of them as Louisville.
At Alabama, basketball administrator Kobie Baker, a former NCAA enforcement staffer, resigned after an internal investigation of the basketball program, according to Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne.
"Our review has not identified any NCAA or SEC rules violations nor the involvement of any other coach or staff member," Byrne said. "We have notified both of the governing bodies of the actions we have taken. As always, we will continue to be proactive in our compliance efforts."
Meanwhile, when asked about cheating in college sports, Miami Hurricanes football coach Mark Richt — who worked as an assistant coach at Florida State and was the coach at Georgia before taking over Miami’s program last season — said there should be consequences for those that break the rules.
He also said he’s confident programs across the country are doing things the right way.
“Bottom line is, if people aren’t behaving like they should, whether it’s players or it’s coaches or it’s business people or whatever it is, then there needs to be consequences. If everybody makes good decisions to discipline things the way should be, then there’s consequences for what happened, then things can cleaned up rather quickly, I think,” Richt said. “I’m sure it’s program by program. I don’t think every basketball program is doing things they shouldn’t do, and I don’t think every football program is doing it. I think there are a lot more [programs] doing things right than doing wrong. But you read about these.”
As to whether what happened Tuesday served as a reminder about the importance of running a clean program, Richt said that wasn’t necessarily the case for him personally, because he and his staff try to make sure that’s the case all the time.
“That’s all we care about, is doing it right,” Richt said. “Do we ever mess up? We mess up. So yeah, should we be even more sharp in our rules and all that kind of thing? Yes. More heightened awareness? Yes. But we hope and we think that we have a heightened awareness all the time.”
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.