In September, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it was pursuing criminal cases against some of the most powerful people in major college basketball. It was a bombshell that shook the landscape just before practice for the new season underway.
One of the first, and still one of the biggest dominoes to fall, was Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, who was fired following the revelation that an Adidas executive, the school’s official provider of athletic apparel, had conspired to pay $100,000 dollars to the family of an elite recruit to get him to play for Louisville and represent Adidas following the conclusion of his college career.
Despite the national prevalence of this story, its effects weren’t felt by the University of New Mexico men’s basketball team. However, this week the investigation reached the Lobos’ corner of the basketball universe, as San Diego State’s Malik Pope and former UNLV player Patrick McCaw were linked to the latest round of players who had allegedly received improper benefits from agents — specifically the agency, ASM Sports, in a story released by Yahoo! Sports last week.
The report includes photos of ASM Sports balance sheets which list “loans” made to current and former collegiate basketball players and includes many of college basketball’s biggest names.
So, how does this affect UNM basketball in the short term?
As of right now, it doesn’t, and unless the Lobos should find themselves playing the Aztecs in the Mountain West Tournament in a few weeks time, and Pope is still not suiting, it won’t.
However, the end of the scandal is far from over, and we won’t know just how big of an impact it will have on New Mexico, or if the Lobos will face NCAA sanctions, for quite some time.
Head basketball coach Paul Weir, who is in his first year at New Mexico, doesn’t expect that there will be anything in future reports about his program.
“I don’t want to comment too much on it, because I’m not fully up-to-date on the teams you’re discussing; I know there’s an article out there,” Weir said during a press conference. “All I can say is internally, when all that went down in August, our compliance office did a thorough vetting of all of our student athletes and their backgrounds, and as far as I know we were all clear and good to go.
“I’m not aware of anything that’s gone on in this program here that would be included in any of that stuff, I guess if for whatever reason if something is, we’ll deal with it then. At this point all I can say is I know nothing about any of that going on here.”
The NCAA, which has fought back against calls from the public for players to be paid for years, issued the following statement by NCAA President Mark Emmert:
“These allegations, if true, point to systematic failures that must be fixed and fixed now if we want college sports in America.
“Simply put, people who engage in this kind of behavior have no place in college sports. They are an affront to all those who play by the rules. Following the Southern District of New York’s indictments last year, the NCAA Board of Governors and I formed the independent Commission on College Basketball, chaired by Condoleezza Rice, to provide recommendations on how to clean up the sport.”
On the surface, many of these allegations appear to just be standard NCAA rules violations, so why is the FBI involved? All of the coaches who were involved in the first round of indictments in September will face charges as “agents of federally funded organizations,” which allows the Justice Department to use broader anti-corruption laws to target coaches for helping arrange these payments to players.
For now, the University of New Mexico has avoided becoming entangled in this case, which currently includes 20 Division I schools and 25 or more players, but this is something the FBI has been investigating for years, and with no end in sight, it’s too early to tell how, or if, the Lobos will be affected.
Cameron Goeldner is a sports beat reporter and photographer for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s soccer and softball but also contributes content for baseball, basketball, football and track and field. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @goeldfinger.