FBI investigation casts a shadow
The chief topic of discussion at the Pac-12 men’s basketball media day Thursday wasn’t how each team is shaping up. It was the FBI investigation enveloping the sport.
Two conference assistant coaches, from USC and Arizona, have been arrested in the probe. Pac-12 Commissioner
Larry Scott was concerned enough to form a conference task force to study the possible ramifications of the scandal.
He said he was “shocked” by the national disclosures and “incredibly disappointed” that they involved his conference. He said he addressed those concerns “in a very direct and frank way” to the head coaches Thursday morning.
The task-force announcement comes a day after the NCAA formed a committee to study possible rule violations and illegalities in the sport. Former Stanford and Cal head coach Mike Montgomery will take part on both panels.
Montgomery said he didn’t think the scandal uncovered a business-asusual approach to bribes and payoffs in college basketball.
“Some people are going to tell you it’s rampant and everybody’s doing it,” he said. “I don’t think that’s the case. Obviously, (when) the FBI gets involved, that’s a little different level.
“As long as I’ve been in coaching — for 42 years — there’s been stuff. You hear about it, but you never really know for sure. Anytime somebody loses a (recruit), you’d say, ‘How come you lost that kid?’ ” And the answer would be, “Oh, they cheated,” he said.
However, he said he’s sure the scandal involves more schools than the ones that have been publicly named — USC, Arizona, Louisville, Miami, Oklahoma State and Auburn.
“There’s probably (coaches and others) running a little scared out there,” Montgomery said. “And rightly so. Because the FBI’s involved, it’s probably got people rethinking their position on this stuff.”
Former Stanford player Josh Childress thinks the sport is rife with corruption. “I know guys who took a pay cut when they made it to the” NBA, he tweeted Wednesday. “But anyway, good luck. It won’t be easy. Maybe just pay the players instead.”
The head coaches of Arizona and USC — which happen to be the teams picked to finish one-two in the league — declined to comment on the FBI probe.
Arizona’s Sean Miller gave an initial statement that he supported the investigation but wouldn’t comment on the specifics of the charges. One of his assistants, Emanuel Richardson, is alleged to have accepted $20,000 in bribes to persuade players to choose certain agents and to have used money to influence a player to attend Arizona.
Asked if he was aware of Richardson’s possible misdeeds, Miller said, “I’m going to stand by the statement that I gave.” He gave the same reply to questions on whether he had been questioned by the FBI, on whether some players ask for money when they’re recruited, and other questions.
“My directive right now,” Miller said, “is to do the best job that I possibly can to coach these guys, to teach them, to love them, to coach them hard and bring out their best in what I hope will be a very successful season.”
USC’s Andy Enfield said he wasn’t aware that assistant coach Tony
Bland allegedly accepted $13,000 to help steer two players to certain agents.
“I found out when everybody else did,” he said. “But other than that, I can’t comment on the investigation.”
Bland has been with the Trojans’ program 4½ years, Enfield said. “We all love Tony, so it’s very difficult on a personal level. It’s very difficult on a program level.”
Asked if a head coach should know if an assistant is involved in the activities alleged, Enfield said he had been instructed, presumably by his attorney, not to comment.
Preseason poll: Arizona, which is atop many national preseason rankings, was picked as the favorite to win the Pac-12 by media members, who tabbed Stanford fifth and Cal 11th in the poll.
The Cardinal return four starters, including leading scorer Reid Travis, and under first-year head coach Wyking
Jones, the Bears are trying replace their top five scorers, who were lost to the NBA, graduation and transfer.
Arizona, which is No. 1 in the country according to Athlton, Blue Ribbon Sports and Street & Smith’s, returns three starters, including 2017 Pac-12 tournament Most Outstanding Player Allonzo Trier.
This marks the 15th time Arizona has been the conference’s projected winner since 1989-90 and the fifth time in the past six seasons. The Wildcats have lived up to the billing nine times, including back-to-back titles in 2013-14 and 201415.
Media representatives have correctly chosen the conference winner 15 times in 25 tries.
Briefly: The Pac-12 extended its partnership with New York Life as the presenting sponsor for the men’s and women’s tournaments. … Tickets for the men’s Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas will go on sale next week, starting with a pre-sale Monday and continuing with availability to the general public Oct. 23.
Former Stanford and Cal basketball coach Mike Montgomery (right, with Bill Walton) is joining two panels looking into collegiate athletics.