Hey, wasn’t that a fun Indiana basketball game there up until the end? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to talk about that? Yeah, well, uh, seems we’re not gonna get to do that for a bit. We’re perhaps in the midst of one of the wilder, weirder news nights in Indiana basketball history since the end of the Sampson era.
As Indiana battled Ohio State late in overtime Friday night, two major stories broke in the sport that should send shockwaves through college basketball that will reach Bloomington. First, ESPN reported that Arizona head coach Sean Miller — Archie’s brother and former boss in the desert until 2011 — was picked up on a wiretap offering $100,000 to current star center DeAndre Ayton. Minutes later, a Pete Thamel and Pat Forde exhaustive report from Yahoo names Chuck Martin as appearing in ASM Sports runner Christian Dawkins’ notes regarding his personal characterization of conversations he’d had with the former Indiana assistant under Tom Crean.
Dawkins, 24, provides a roadmap for the quid-pro-quo relationship between the agent world and college coaches. He dangles a high school prospect – five-star recruit Brian Bowen – as potential trade bait for schools to steer their best players to ASM Sports. On the same July day, Dawkins wrote to Miller that he connected with two Big Ten assistants, Dwayne Stephens of Michigan State and Chuck Martin, formerly of Indiana.
The email recounts the interactions from Dawkins’ perspective:
“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”
“Chuck Martin – Trying to close the deal on Brian Bowen for Indiana. I told him if we can work together and if he can push for us to get (Hoosiers) Thomas Bryant and OG Anunoby two projected first rounders from IU this year we can work something out.”
Indiana athletic department spokesman J.D. Campbell, reached in the middle of Indiana’s game on Friday night, said, “This is the first that we’ve heard anything about this.” Martin declined comment when reached by Yahoo Sports, and Michigan State pointed to its comment from earlier Friday.
A few things to note here regarding the Dawkins notes. Independently, you wouldn’t call this a smoking gun. An optimistic reading here says Dawkins, a zealous young agent runner, was trying to swap OG & Thomas Bryant’s business for Bowen’s signature on an Indiana LOI. It might not have gone further than one conversation. There are some non-trivial details that might support this: Anunoby did not sign with ASM. Bryant did not sign with ASM. Bowen did not sign with Indiana, and was never particularly considered a top-choice in his recruitment.
There’s also the other, far simpler, reading: An Indiana basketball assistant is in the notes of a now-notorious agency at the center of a far-reaching FBI probe for possibly exchanging a quid-pro-quo bribe to secure a player’s services. It certainly isn’t good. It seems less good when considering the player is Bryan Bowen, who took $100,000 to attend Louisville. It’s even less good when the coach is Chuck Martin. It’s the least good when both are now together again at South Carolina. Neat!
As unsettling as that paragraph may be, it’s worth wondering if it’s even the report that might have the biggest trickle-down effect on the current Indiana program. The focus & most frequently named program in the reports is Sean Miller’s Arizona. The conversations around payment for DeAndre Ayton’s services are described in detail in the ESPN report, and the Yahoo! report goes further to detail Arizona’s quid-pro-quo exchanges to funnel Brian Bowen to the school. Archie Miller left Arizona in 2011, and he’s absolutely not implicated in anything here -- all these events are well-after he left for Dayton. Still, it’s worth wondering what’s going to happen here — and what might eventually come out as the FBI continues to dig.