MSU's Miles Bridges 'nervous' as playing status was sorted out
Madison, Wis. – Miles Bridges admitted he was scared on Friday morning.
It was early that day news started breaking that his mother’s name was included in a report on the FBI’s investigation into college basketball corruption.
“I was shocked,” Bridges said. “I didn’t know anything.”
The report didn’t say Bridges himself received impermissible benefits, but it did show documents that said Christian Dawkins, an associate of former NBA agent Andy Miller, turned in an expense report that said he paid for lunch and gave a $400 advance to Bridges’ mother, Cynthia.
But, to the NCAA, that doesn’t matter. Any extra benefit to the family is the same as it going to the player. So, as Friday lingered into Saturday, there was uncertainty over whether Bridges would remain eligible.
“That’s nothing to play with,” Bridges said on Sunday afternoon, “so I was kind of nervous.”
By mid-day Saturday, the Spartans and Bridges got the word they were hoping for – the work Michigan State’s compliance office had done was reviewed by the NCAA and Bridges was cleared to play.
Needless to say, it was a relief to Bridges, who said Sunday he has never received any extra benefits.
Bridges said he gave statements to the MSU compliance staff, and then did his best to focus on playing.
“My teammates have been having my back this last 48 hours and I know that will always happen,” Bridges said. “It’s a family here and we treat each other like brothers.”
It paid off on the court as Michigan State beat Wisconsin, 68-63, to secure its first outright Big Ten championship since 2009 and lock up the No. 1 seed in next week’s conference tournament.
But just getting to that point was a stressful one as Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and his staff started to plan for the possibility of not having Bridges.
“I addressed my team and staff on Friday, not knowing but thinking there was a chance he would not play,” Izzo said “I wanted to tell them on Friday and not on Saturday and then they wouldn’t have time to adjust. So, I told them Friday this could be the way it is, to prepare both ways.
“As you can imagine, those guys don’t like Miles, they love Miles. The practices weren’t great. With about 20 minutes left yesterday in practice we got word he was eligible to play. It definitely helped the last 20 minutes but it was a difficult two days, no question.”
As for the report, Bridges made it clear he does not have any sort of relationship with Dawkins, the man at the center of the FBI investigation.
“I don't know him at all,” Bridges said. “If he was in here, I wouldn't know if he was here.”
Bridges also said there was never a “late night” meeting with Dawkins when Bridges attended a camp in Los Angeles in the summer of 2016, as was reported in an email Dawkins sent to Miller.
“They don’t even let us out of camp,” Bridges said laughing. “So, I don’t know what that’s about.”
Bridges said he wasn’t sure exactly what it was that cleared him, but he did reference the statement his mother made to MSU compliance as a likely reason. That would back up what Izzo said after the game about the $400 Cynthia Bridges was allegedly given by Dawkins.
In expense reports reviewed by Yahoo Sports, it showed Dawkins claiming to play $70.05 for lunch with Bridges’ parents and then making an ATM withdrawal for $400 as an advance to Cynthia Bridges.
“There was one major issue of the $400 that we and they have found to be completely not true, as of what we know now,” Izzo said.
Izzo said he was fairly sure this closes the door on the case, something MSU officials confirmed later on Sunday and that Bridges is cleared to continue playing, including next week’s Big Ten tournament and the NCAA Tournament.
“I am, in every way, shape and form,” Izzo said when asked if he’s confident the case is complete. “I don’t think they do those things unless they’ve vetted it pretty good. As far as I’m concerned, I have no reason to believe any member my staff or student-athletes here have violated any NCAA rules.”
Bridges said he hasn’t asked his mom specifically about the $400, only checking on her to see if she’s OK after receiving plenty of backlash on social media. He also said he only spoke with Michigan State compliance officials and no one from the NCAA or the FBI.
“I haven't (taken any money),” Bridges said. “My mom hasn't. It's as simple as that.”
While Bridges said he has no relationship with Dawkins, Izzo said he does have a relationship with Dawkins’ father, Lou, who was the high school coach of Draymond Green at Saginaw. Dawkins’ other son, Dorian, died after collapsing on the court at a Michigan State basketball camp in 2009.
Izzo didn’t address specifically if he knew Christian Dawkins, the runner for Miller. In emails viewed by Yahoo, it showed Dawkins reaching out to Michigan State associate head coach Dwayne Stephens last summer about getting former prospect Brian Bowen to commit to MSU in deal that would lock up Bridges and former Spartan Gary Harris as clients.
In a statement released Saturday, Stephens denied violating any NCAA rules and was on the bench Sunday at Wisconsin.
BIG TEN TOURNAMENT
At New York
All games on BTN unless noted.
■No. 12 Iowa vs. No. 13 Illinois, 5:30 p.m.
■No. 11 Minnesota vs. No. 14 Rutgers, 8 p.m.
■No. 8 Maryland vs. No. 9 Wisconsin, noon
■No. 5 Michigan vs. Iowa/Illinois winner, 2:30 p.m.
■No. 7 Penn State vs. No. 10 Northwestern, 6:30 p.m.
■No. 6 Indiana vs. Minnesota/Rutgers winner, 9 p.m.
■No. 1 Michigan State vs. Maryland/Wisconsin winner, noon
■No. 4 Nebraska vs. Michigan/Iowa/Illinois winner, 2:30 p.m.
■No. 2 Ohio State vs. Penn State/Northwestern winner, 6:30 p.m.
■No. 3 Purdue vs. Indiana/Minnesota/Rutgers winner, 9 p.m.
■Michigan State/Maryland/Wisconsin winner vs. Nebraska/Michigan/Iowa/Illinois winner, 2 p.m. (CBS)
■Ohio State/Penn State/Northwestern winner vs. Purdue/Indiana/Minnesota/Rutgers winner, 4:30 p.m. (CBS)
■Championship, 4:30 p.m. (CBS)