Michigan State's Miles Bridges, Jaren Jackson Jr., Cassius Winston, and Lourawls "Tum Tum" Nairn met the media following Tuesday night's victory over Illinois. Matt Charboneau, Detroit News
Michigan State might be wise to sit sophomore Miles Bridges for at least a couple of games, one expert on NCAA investigations says, following a report from Yahoo Sports on an FBI investigation that says Bridges’ mother, Cynthia, received improper benefits from the associate of a former NBA agent.
The report, published Friday morning, details the FBI investigation and included documents and expense reports of Christian Dawkins, a former associate of agent Andy Miller. The documents list an ATM withdrawal for $400 to “Miles Bridges mom,” as well as $70.05 for “Lunch w/Miles Bridges Parents.”
“I think in this case it would be pretty silly for Michigan State not to (sit Bridges) because you’re already looking at the presumptive penalty of at least a couple games, that it’s probably not a bad idea to sit him until this shakes out,” said B. David Ridpath, an assistant sports administration professor at Ohio University and president of the Drake Group, a not-for-profit that advocates the overhaul of commercialized college sports. “But it wouldn’t be a complete surprise if they said, ‘Hey, we don’t know the whole circumstances of this. The NCAA and the conference have to look at it.’ And they might play a delay tactic just to get through the tournament.
“I think the big thing is, obviously, the timing we’re at right now.”
The timing, of course, is what puts Michigan State in a difficult position. The second-ranked Spartans play at 1 p.m. Sunday at Wisconsin in the final game of the regular season before beginning play next week in the Big Ten tournament, potentially as the No. 1 seed. Then there’s a week off before the NCAA Tournament begins.
On Friday afternoon, MSU issued statements from coach Tom Izzo and interim AD Bill Beekman.
Izzo: “We are aware of the report in Yahoo! Sports. While we will cooperate with any and all investigations, we have no reason to believe that I, any member of our staff or student-athlete did anything in violation of NCAA rules.”
Beekman: “MSU is committed to a culture of NCAA compliance. We have proactively contacted the NCAA and Big Ten Conference. As Coach Izzo has stated, there is no evidence that he or anyone in his program, including student-athletes, did anything impermissible.”
Based on the Yahoo report, the total of $470 isn’t nearly as big as some of the other players and payments listed in the report, but it is something the NCAA would have to adjudicate. Typically, Ridpath said, anything over $100 would trigger a payback and a game suspension for every $100 dollars over the first $100.
“There are a whole lot of moving parts here, but just looking at what has happened in the past, he would be have to pay back $370, which could be stretched out over the rest of his eligibility,” said Ridpath, who also worked in the compliance department at Marshall University. “That money would go to the charity of the school’s choice which is approved by the NCAA. And then typically he’s looking at likely a three-game suspension.
“So, not hugely horrible by any stretch, but when you’re getting into the Dennis Smith level of $73,000, now we’re talking about a whole different ballgame.”
Smith, who played at North Carolina State, is one of six players listed in the report that received more than $10,000. His amount totaled more than $73,000, according to the report.
The amount attributed to Bridges’ parents is nowhere near that high and Ridpath believes Michigan State could put itself in a better position with the NCAA if it acted now.
“If I was sitting there with Tom Izzo and everybody there in East Lansing, I would probably say, ‘Look, we have a few games coming up in the Big Ten tournament. I say we sit him now for three games. It shows that we’re being proactive,’” Ridpath said. “They could, on their own, even set up a repayment plan to show, again, the NCAA sometimes, at least, will look at that as a positive thing, that you’re taking proactive stances.”
Of course, Michigan State could also choose to play Bridges and deal with the consequences later. However, determining when the NCAA might act is anyone’s guess. The NCAA makes the bulk of its revenue off the NCAA Tournament, signing a 14-year, $10.8 billion contract with Turner Sports in 2010, one that was extended in 2016 for a combined total rights fee of $8.8 billion.
So, any immediate investigations could hamper the upcoming tournament.
“This the NCAA’s entire cash cow if you take college football out of the equation,” Ridpath said “So, I don’t think they’re gonna move. …. They’re gonna move like a snail until probably April 15. They’re gonna want to get this year’s tournament going.”
FROM THE NCAA
This is the NCAA rule regarding extra benefits for student-athletes and their family members and friends:
16.02.3 Extra Benefit. An extra benefit is any special arrangement by an institutional employee or representative of the institution's athletics interests to provide a student-athlete or the student-athlete family member or friend a benefit not expressly authorized by NCAA legislation. Receipt of a benefit by student-athletes or their family members or friends is not a violation of NCAA legislation if it is demonstrated that the same benefit is generally available to the institution's students or their family members or friends or to a particular segment of the student body (e.g., international students, minority students) determined on a basis unrelated to athletics ability.