Advertisement

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Father testifies on pay for play at college hoops programs

Brian Bowen Sr. arrives at federal court, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018, in New York. When Brian Bowen Jr., one of America's brightest high school basketball stars, announced in June 2017 that he would attend the University of Louisville, a school that had not been on anyone's radar as his possible destination, sportswriters called it a coup that "came out of nowhere." In a trial that began Monday, federal prosecutors will argue that the signing wasn't luck at all but the result of a payoff to Bowen's father. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Brian Bowen Sr. arrives at federal court, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018, in New York. When Brian Bowen Jr., one of America's brightest high school basketball stars, announced in June 2017 that he would attend the University of Louisville, a school that had not been on anyone's radar as his possible destination, sportswriters called it a coup that "came out of nowhere." In a trial that began Monday, federal prosecutors will argue that the signing wasn't luck at all but the result of a payoff to Bowen's father. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Advertisement

NEW YORK (AP) — The father of a top-rated college basketball prospect testified Thursday that his son was offered thousands of dollars on the sly to play at major programs before a corruption scandal derailed the promising player's collegiate career.

At a federal trial over allegations about dirty money in college hoops, Brian Bowen Sr. said that an aspiring agent, Christian Dawkins, told the father he could pocket $50,000 if his son played at the University of Arizona, $150,000 at Oklahoma State or $100,000 at Creighton. Bowen said there was some interest from Oregon but didn't recall a cash offer.

Bowen told a Manhattan jury it was his understanding the offers were being made by assistant coaches at the schools, though he never spoke to them directly about money. He said the Oklahoma State offer, which included an additional $8,000 for a car, came from then-assistant coach Lamont Evans, a defendant in the investigation who's pleaded not guilty.

Dawkins, former amateur coach Merl Code and former Adidas executive James Gatto, have pleaded not guilty to charges they committed fraud by secretly funneling money from Adidas to families of prospects to get them to attend colleges sponsored by the athletic wear company. The son, Brian Bowen Jr., eventually landed at Louisville, an Adidas school, after the defendants engineered a promise of $100,000 for his family.

Dan Wetzel, a Yahoo Sports columnist, said in a tweet on Thursday that Bowen testified that the deal for his son to play at Louisville was raised from between $60,000 and $80,000 to $100,000 because that’s how much University of Kansas recruit Billy Preston was paid.

Previously, prosecutors said payouts were offered in the recruitment of KU players, including an alleged $90,000 payment to the family of Preston, who never played in an official game for KU and now plays in the NBA.

Bowen ultimately transferred to South Carolina, but was never cleared to play college basketball before opting to pursue a professional career.

Gatto's attorney and a taped conversation in evidence at the trial have suggested the deal to sign with Louisville had to compete with an undisclosed offer to lure Brian Bowen Jr. to Oregon, which is sponsored by Nike. Oregon has denied it knew of any deal.

"The criminal case announced last year charging the three men with fraud resulted in the school announcing that Bowen wouldn't play for the Cardinals, though he could remain on scholarship if he chose to stay. It also led to the firing of Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino - who was never named in prosecutors' criminal complaints - as the investigation became public amid the school's appeal of NCAA sanctions from its embarrassing escort scandal."

Before his testimony about the alleged offers, the elder Bowen grew emotional when a prosecutor first brought up his son, who goes by the nickname "Tugs."

"Is Tugs in college?" asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Diskant.

"No, he's not," Bowen responded.

When the prosecutor asked why not, Bowen dropped his head into his hands and wept, prompting the judge to call a recess.

Brian Bowen Jr. now plays professionally in Australia.

— Journal-World reporter Dylan Lysen contributed to this report.

Comments

Ashwin Rao 2 weeks ago

I am so glad that Billy didn't play a game for KU! Glad the KU-AD/coach did it the way they did.

Steve Corder 2 weeks ago

Stories of illegal inducements to high school athletes to attend a particular university has a long history. This is, unfortunately, just the latest example.

Pay the athletes, no limits, complete “Free Agency” and let the bidding commence! It may sicken some, make some eventually regret it or maybe just turn off most people and return a vast majority of universities to true student-athlete sports.

I’d love to watch Alabama get into a bidding war with Texas. How about a bidding war between Kentucky, Kansas and Duke for some basketball stud? Instant, unashamed high school millionaires!

Oh, did I mention it might down size the NCAA compliance department to irrelevance?

Dustin Peterson 1 week, 6 days ago

A few thoughts:

 (1) I truly believe college athletics should be amateur athletics.

 (2) The NBA draft requirement of age 19 has left a gaping hole in the market for serving      players who want to turn pro out of high school AND still play in the United States. I’m actually surprised no one has been able to legally take advantage of that business opportunity.

 (3) If college athletics is to be that professional league between amateurism and the NBA, then stop lying to everyone about what it is. They do not need a scholarship (unless they want one). They do not need to go to classes (unless the want to). And they can openly be contracted advertising instruments of the university.

 (4) The cavet to number 3 is that only about 20 schools are poised to take full advantage of it. Those schools would likely either be forced by the NCAA to break away to form a league similar to number 2, which cuts them off of the NCAA’s revenue infrastructure, or the NCAA would follow the money schools and leave the remaining 300 on the curb with no centralized leadership or revenue. College as a professional sports league is garbage.

 (5) The compromise I’d suggest is that NCAA require a roster of 10 (minimum) to 15 (max) players who must ALL be on scholarship. Those scholarships are 3 year commitments. If a player leaves college after one year, the team will not be able to recruit another player to assume that scholarship for another 2 seasons. Can the player take money from any source and in any amount? Sure, whatever. America. But when the NBA calls and the kid bolts after the 2018-19 season, the school is effectively down to 14 scholarships until the 2021-22 season. So, go ahead and pay all the kids to play platoon ball at Kentucky and see how it works out when UK is disqualified from competing for the next 2 years because they fall  below roster minimum.

Jeff Kallmeyer 1 week, 6 days ago

Your (5) is an interesting concept. The Preston payoff makes me question the competency of KU's compliance department.

Patrick Bryant 1 week, 6 days ago

On your, #5 I would replace the school paying for a student leaving but charge the student who leaves before 2 years are up, then he pays for those 2 years - room, board, and tuition. Scholarships could also be given out in 2-year increments.

Freddie Garza 1 week, 6 days ago

Are we all just gonna play dumb and pretend that all of this is just happening and nobody in the AD knows about it? Or that Bill Self HIMSELF doesn't know about it?

It's not his fault, this is how the games played. EVERY top 150 recruit in America is getting paid. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.

And anyone with a competitive program is complicit. That means us, Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Arizona...EVERYBODY who is ANYBODY is doing this. Because that's the system that the NCAA has created.

Seems to me that the easiest fix in all of this is to quit the "amateurism" charade. The NCAA and member institutions are pocket UNTOLD millions of dollars on the backs of these "amateurs" who for all intents and purposes are the furthest thing from amateurs.

The NCAA should be abolished, and we should just go ahead and give these kids contracts and start paying them ABOVE board as opposed to being forced into shadiness while paying them under the table.

Dirk Medema 1 week, 6 days ago

How many times? How many other places has this exact thing happen. Person gets caught doing something they weren't supposed to do. Claims "that everybody else is doing it" as a defense. How early does it start? Like 5 years old? Major headlines for a 5 year olds defense, though not just a 5 year olds because there are plenty of adults doing the exact same thing.

All Bowen is really testifying about is what one criminal has told him. There's no proof of anything here except that he is guilty of accepting a bribe.

Kit Duncan 1 week, 6 days ago

It’s just as likely the father demanded payment for his son. Why else would he have information about all the different amounts? Why would the shoe company rep bid against himself? There had to be haggling between the dad and the rep (schools) to get to the winning “bid” by Louisville!

Kit Duncan 1 week, 6 days ago

I’ve made this recommendation before.

The NBA should be allowed to draft a certain number of high school seniors, who would attend two years of college at the expense of the “winning” team (if they sign with that team). If the student declines the draft or is undrafted, he would be required to attend four years with no early entry into the NBA allowed. Scholarships for “drafted” but unsigned players, would be paid out of a general fund paid into by all NBA teams. Each school would be allowed X-number of scholarships for undrafted players paid by the university. Lastly, the “drafted but unsigned “ players would be considered free agents at the end of four years of college. They would either be offered a premium to stay with their original NBA team, or be released to play for any team that is willing to hire them.

Sign in to comment