COLUMBIA — The FBI probe that has rocked college basketball has circled back to South Carolina.
Former South Carolina star P.J. Dozier, current Gamecocks freshman Brian Bowen and former Clemson star Jaron Blossomgame are named among dozens of other current or former college players who allegedly accepted money from a sports agency in FBI documents obtained by Yahoo! Sports. If the allegations are proved to be true, the Gamecocks and Tigers could be facing NCAA penalties, including the vacation of wins and removal of USC’s 2017 Final Four banner.
"We first learned of the allegations in the Yahoo Sports report last night, and remain committed to cooperating with the NCAA and the DOJ," USC Athletic Director Ray Tanner said Friday.
Dozier did not return a call seeking comment while his father, Perry Dozier, replied, “Sorry, I can’t talk right now.” Coach Frank Martin declined comment through a team spokesperson.
The cloud of the FBI probe has hovered over the sport since September and could affect the final month of the season. While no current USC or Clemson players are mentioned in the report outside Bowen, who is enrolled at USC but not playing, several players for some of the nation’s top teams are.
The FBI has the evidence but until the NCAA acts on it, basketball will proceed. It’s highly doubtful the NCAA will step in and try to start cleaning up the sport just before its annual billion-dollar tournament due to its lengthy investigative process, but all schools mentioned in the report will have to decide what they’ll do if they’re in danger of future NCAA violations.
“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,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement. “They are an affront to all those who play by the rules.”
USC has much to lose in the case. Dozier is listed in the documents as receiving at least $6,115 from ASM Sports during his two years in school. If the allegations are true and the NCAA steps in, USC could be forced to vacate any games in which Dozier played, which includes 51 victories over the past two seasons and the Gamecocks’ run to the 2017 Final Four.
Louisville was forced to vacate its 2013 national championship and two Final Four appearances this week for another scandal not related to the FBI probe. A similar punishment could have USC not recognizing any facets of the best season in program history.
USC was tied to the probe when it was first announced in September. Former assistant coach Lamont Evans, then at Oklahoma State, was indicted as one of several people who allegedly accepted bribes in order to steer players toward ASM Sports. Evans was first contacted by ASM while he was at USC, and while no one currently at USC was charged, the school still had to turn over all documents and files related to Evans’ tenure to the FBI.
Dozier, who left USC after two years but was undrafted, made it to the NBA anyway with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He is listed as a client of Kevin Bradbury and BDA Sports, not ASM.
Dozier attended USC’s game against Auburn on Saturday, where he was presented with his Final Four ring.
Clemson was also lightly tied to the probe due to the actions of Merl Code, who was also arrested in the sting. Code, a former Tigers player, was accused of coercing players to sign with adidas but had no association with Clemson other than playing there.
Yet Blossomgame and former Tiger stars K.J. McDaniels and Trevor Booker were former ASM clients, which may trigger the school and/or NCAA to look into their relationships with the agency while enrolled at Clemson. All three players have since left ASM.
According to documents, Blossomgame received $1,100 from ASM via a Venmo payment while he was a student at Clemson. The former Clemson star, who was taken with the 59th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs, could not be reached for comment.
Brad Brownell, the Clemson basketball coach, opened his press conference Friday afternoon by saying he had no comment about the Yahoo! story and that he would "not get into those details or any of that kind of stuff." Instead, he referred to the statement he released through the university earlier Friday morning.
"I’ve been in college basketball for over 25 years and I’ve always tried to conduct myself within the rules and have held my staff and players to the same standard," that statement read. "Because I do not have any personal knowledge about the current investigation, I won’t comment or speculate about that matter. We’ll cooperate with any agency looking into the issue if they contact us."
Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich echoed that sentiment.
"Clemson was made aware of an issue regarding a former student-athlete through this morning’s media reports," he said in a statement. "We received no inquiries or prior notice from anyone, and we’re in the process of reviewing the matter."
Asked if the report would serve as a cautionary tale as he looks to hire an agent of his own this spring ahead of the NBA Draft, Clemson senior forward Donte Grantham indicated it would.
"I mean, yeah. Even before this, you've always got to be cautious of who you trust and who you let in your circle," Grantham said. "For me, the older I get, the smaller my circle gets. So we're just being extra cautious and carrying ourselves how we've been carrying ourselves."
Bowen is currently ineligible by the NCAA but is practicing with the Gamecocks. He transferred from Louisville, where he landed after his father’s alleged involvement with Adidas. The resulting fallout cost athletics director Tom Jurich and Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino their jobs.
USC is attempting to get Bowen eligible and then on the court by midseason next year. Tanner and Martin said when Bowen enrolled that since he was not under investigation, there was no reason to deny him a chance to play college basketball. Any activities Bowen may or may not have engaged in before he got to Louisville would be irrelevant to his time at USC, although it’s up to the NCAA to restore his eligibility.