Big Ten boss ‘not shocked’ by allegations in FBI probe

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Michigan coach John Beilein speaks at Big Ten media day on Thursday.

New York – When the FBI announced a couple of weeks ago that it had uncovered mass corruption, bribery and wire fraud involving some of college basketball’s top programs, it didn’t exactly come as a surprise.

The common reaction seemed to be, “Tell us something we don’t know.”

While there was always the belief that a shady underside of college basketball existed – primarily in recruiting – the charges that involved four assistant basketball coaches, shoe and apparel executives, AAU coaches and former agents at least put it all out in the open.

On Thursday at Big Ten media day at Madison Square Garden, the subject came up quite a bit.

“Yeah, we're all concerned, and we should be,” commissioner Jim Delany said. “We don't know what we don't know. We sort of know what you know, what we read about in the paper. We've had no contact with the government. We really don't have any facts other than what we've read. I'm sure it will unfold and it we'll learn more as things, as investigations become more public.

“I'm not shocked about this.”

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Delany wasn’t shocked because he’s seen the FBI get involved before. Most of those times have involved gambling, as Delany spelled out on Thursday, citing investigations that date back to the 1950s. But, as he pointed out, many of the issues in the past dealt with people not connected to the universities.

“One of the things that stands out to me is that in the first investigations it was external people working with players to fix games,” he said. “In the last three or four there's been more engagement on the agent side, the advisor side, still some, perhaps gambling. And in these most recent cases, there are people inside of our programs. That's a big difference between being inside and outside.”

That’s changed with this investigation as coaches from Southern Cal, Arizona, Oklahoma State and Auburn have already been charged.

Also involved are executives from Adidas, the head of an AAU team in Florida and Saginaw native Christian Dawkins, a former agent who is in the middle of the investigation and has ties to Brian Bowen, a freshman at Louisville who has been identified as being in the investigations.

Richard Pitino said Thursday his father, fired Louisville coach Rick Pitino, remains his hero.

Documents allege Bowen, who was at one time recruited by Michigan State, received money to go to Louisville. It has resulted in Louisville forcing out Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino. On Thursday, Richard Pitino, the coach at Minnesota and son of Rick, defended his father.

“It’s been really hard,” Pitino said. “You just want for him, more than anything, you see your dad and you want him to be happy. You want him to be healthy. So, I’m a son, like anybody else, who just wants what’s best for my dad.

“It’s gonna be different that he’s not coaching. It’s been 30-something years. But like I said, you all are sons or have kids, I’m a kid who loves his dad and I’m a kid who I don’t care what you say to me, I don’t care what you write. I am so proud of him and will always be proud of him. He’s a hero of mine and he’s one of the best coaches and people who has ever coaches this game and that hasn’t changed.”

Where the investigation leads, no one is real sure. Delany didn’t have specific ideas but pointed out he’s had discussions with Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, who is part of the NCAA Commission on College Basketball.

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he work continues by the FBI and there could still be more charges and more names pulled into it.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo warned against painting the entire sport with a broad brush while Michigan coach John Beilein said the key is following the spirit of rules already in place.

“People have to understand the NCAA didn’t make the rules, the colleges and universities made the rules and asked the NCAA to enforce those rules,” Beilein said. “It’s not a group of clandestine people making rules. It’s the University of Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State. We all make these rules in collaboration together. So, these are the rules, follow the rules, the spirit of the rule. You follow the spirit of the rule, not just find a way around the rule.

“Just continue to have that tone of compliance throughout your university, in your coaching staff that, ‘Guys, this is not something we’re ever gonna do.’ There’s always a changing landscape and you have to adapt. But again, follow the spirit of the rule you usually don’t get in any trouble.”