North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams talks with reporters about the FBI investigation of college basketball during a press conference Feb. 16, 2018. UNC
North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams talks with reporters about the FBI investigation of college basketball during a press conference Feb. 16, 2018. UNC

North Carolina

Ominous report on FBI basketball investigation not a concern for UNC, Roy Williams says

February 16, 2018 04:12 PM


This story has been updated to include comments from Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski and N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts.

A recent Yahoo! Sports article said hall-of-fame coaches and half of the teams in the NCAA tournament’s initial top-16 seeding “should be scared” about the FBI’s next move in the federal probe into college basketball’s recruiting underworld.

Roy Williams is a hall-of-fame coach and North Carolina was one of the teams in the initial seedings but the UNC coach said on Friday that he was confident his program was not involved in any wrongdoing with paying recruits.

“I feel very comfortable,” Williams said. “If the phone rings at night, I’m not worried about that. I may worry about a lot of other things but it ain’t about that.”

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UNC had a long-running NCAA investigation into an academic scandal wrapped up in October without any penalties from the NCAA.

Four assistant coaches – at Auburn, Arizona, Oklahoma State and Southern California – were arrested on bribery charges in September, accused of delivering players to an agent and financial adviser.

Louisville head coach Rick Pitino was fired after the family of star recruit Brian Bowen was found to have been paid $100,000 by an adidas executive to pick the Cardinals during the recruiting process.

Louisville head coach Rick Pitino walks off the court after a 73-69 loss to Michigan in a second-round game in the men's NCAA college basketball tournament on March 19, 2017, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Jeff Roberson AP

Bowen, who had been recruited by N.C. State, was not cleared by the NCAA and left Louisville before the start of the season. He has since enrolled at South Carolina.

UNC and Louisville meet on Saturday. Williams was asked about the recent Yahoo! Sports report by Pete Thamel, which was published on Thursday.

On Sunday, after Duke’s win over Clemson, coach Mike Krzyzewski had little to say about the Yahoo report.

“I haven’t followed it. I have been so in a tunnel, in a cave with my own team, I’m not up to date on it, so I apologize.”

N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts on Monday said he had read the Yahoo! story and that the school has not been contacted about the FBI investigation.

“I don’t have any concerns at all about N.C. State,” Keatts said Monday morning during the ACC coaches teleconference. “I have no reason to believe at all that we have anything to do with the FBI or anything else. Obviously I wasn’t here but we don’t have anything on our end from a school standpoint or basketball. We don’t have any red flags or concerns at all.”

Keatts followed up later in a phone call to say: “We have not been contacted. We are 100 percent not involved in this.”

Thamel, quoting an anonymous source, wrote:

“This goes a lot deeper in college basketball than four corrupt assistant coaches,” said a source who has been briefed on the details of the case. “When this all comes out, Hall of Fame coaches should be scared, lottery picks won’t be eligible to play and almost half of the 16 teams the NCAA showed on its initial NCAA tournament show this weekend should worry about their appearance being vacated.”

Williams is one of six active coaches in Division I who are also enshrined in the Naismith Hall of Fame. Krzyzewski and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim are the other two in the ACC. Pitino is also a member of the Hall of Fame.

In September, the FBI and other federal authorities announced a sweeping investigation into bribery and corruption in college basketball.

At the core of the investigation was money from athletic apparel giant adidas allegedly being used to pay the families of basketball recruits in exchange for attending colleges with adidas deals, to bribe college coaches to veer those players toward certain agents and financial advisers linked to the apparel company.

According to the FBI indictments, families of college basketball recruits were paid $100,000 and more.

UNC does have a commitment from Orlando high school senior Nassir Little, who appears to have been referenced in the FBI report on the recruiting scandal.

An athlete matching Little’s description was mentioned in the initial FBI report as a recruit whose AAU coach was paid by two adidas executives to steer Little to an adidas-sponsored school. Miami, also an ACC school, is described in the FBI report as the school that tried to bribe Little’s coach. UNC has a sneaker and apparel contract with Nike

University of North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams tells reporters why he trusts UNC prospect Nassir Little in the wake of an FBI investigation into college basketball. Jonathan

Miami coach Jim Larranaga has denied the allegations. So have Little and his father, Harold.

I feel very comfortable. If the phone rings at night, I’m not worried about that. I may worry about a lot of other things but it ain’t about that.

UNC coach Roy Williams

Williams said again on Friday that problems in college sports with paying recruits are not new.

The NCAA has had “problems forever,” Williams said.

“In every part of society, there are some things that are going wrong,” Williams said. “And there are some things that are going very, very well.

“I tend to look at it like that right there. When the FBI gets involved, it’s a different level. There’s no question about that.”

Just by pure math, Williams pointed out, the article’s main assumption – that more trouble for high-profile programs was inevitable – was likely correct.

“When you’re talking about four guys (who were arrested), we’ve got 351 programs and everybody has four assistants, so it’s a lot of people,” Williams said.

“I would guess some other things are going to drop at some point.”

Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio