MSU assistant Stephens: Report alleging NCAA violations 'false'

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
From right, MSU assistant Dwayne Stephens, head coach Tom Izzo and assistant Dane Fife.

Michigan State associate head coach Dwayne Stephens defended himself on Saturday, saying any insinuation he committed NCAA violations is false.

Stephens, who is in his 15th season as an assistant at Michigan State and his sixth as the associate head coach to Tom Izzo, was mentioned in a report from Yahoo Sports released late Friday night that has given a glimpse into the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball.

The report referenced emails from Christian Dawkins, an associate of former NBA agent Andy Miller, that said Dawkins had contacted Stephens about the recruitment of Saginaw native Brian Bowen in July 2016. Bowen, who eventually signed with Louisville, has been one of the main figures in the investigation after he was suspended at Louisville when the investigation revealed his family allegedly received $100,000 for Bowen to sign at Louisville. He has since transferred to South Carolina but has not played.

On Saturday afternoon, Stephens responded.

“Throughout my career as a college basketball coach, I’ve been committed to following all NCAA rules, including during the recruiting process,” he said in a statement. “Any insinuation to the contrary is false. I’m confident that I have not committed a violation.”

The report from Yahoo referenced several emails from Dawkins showing he was pushing to make deals to land Bowen at various schools. The same day — July 25, 2016 — Dawkins emailed Miller about contacting Stephens as well as Indiana assistant Chuck Martin.

“Dwayne Stephens – Trying to close the deal on Brian Bowen for Michigan State. Trying to do a trade deal for (Spartans) Gary Harris, Miles Bridges, etc,” the email read.

It would appear Dawkins’ intention was to attempt to secure a deal where a commitment to Michigan State from Bowen would result in Harris and Bridges signing with Miller’s agency, ASM Sports. Bridges had already enrolled at Michigan State in June of 2016 and Harris was already in the NBA. He has been represented by Aaron Mintz of Creative Artists Agency (CAA) since leaving Michigan State at the end of his sophomore season in 2014.

Bowen, the cousin of former Michigan State star Jason Richardson, was a top recruiting target for Michigan State. But as the process was drawn out, Michigan State backed off a bit in its pursuit and Bowen eventually signed with Louisville last June. 
Stephens is in his 15th season as an assistant at Michigan State and his sixth as associate head coach. He’s also coached at Marquette (1999-2003) with former MSU assistant and Indiana coach Tom Crean and was an assistant at Oakland from 1997-99.

The native of Ferndale played four seasons at Michigan State (1990-93). He was the team MVP in 1992 and team captain as a senior in 1993.

Brian Bowen

Before Stephens released his statement, Michigan State referred questions to a statement made by Izzo earlier on Friday.

“We are aware of the report in Yahoo! Sports,” Izzo said in the statement. “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.”

In Yahoo’s first report released Friday morning, it revealed spreadsheets and expense reports turned in by Dawkins. In those reports, it showed Dawkins spent $70.05 for a meal with Bridges’ parents and $400 as an “advance” to Bridges’ mom, Cynthia.

The story released Friday night by Yahoo also shows that Bridges was one of Dawkins’ primary targets in the summer of 2016.

“Documents indicate that Dawkins spent considerable time in contact with the Bridges family and with Spartans assistant coach Dwayne Stephens,” the Yahoo report said. It added that Dawkins said in emails that he planned to be in touch with Cynthia Bridges and on July 27, 2016, Dawkins emailed Miller about a “late night” meeting arranged with Miles Bridges.

The next day, Dawkins sent another email from the Nike Skills Academy in Los Angeles where Bridges and three other players linked to Dawkins — Edmond Sumner (Xavier), Flint native Monte Morris (Iowa State) and Jaron Blossomgame (Clemson) – were taking part. The report says Dawkins referred to the players as “our guys.”

No. 2 Michigan State plays its final regular-season game at 1 p.m. Sunday at Wisconsin. On Saturday, Michigan State announced it had completed an internal review of Bridges’ eligibility, presented it to the NCAA and that the sophomore forward had been cleared to play.

“After learning of the allegations in yesterday’s Yahoo! Sports article, our compliance office conducted a thorough internal review,” interim athletic director Bill Beekman said in a statement. “Michigan State presented its findings to the NCAA, and Miles Bridges has been cleared for competition moving forward, beginning Sunday at Wisconsin.”