Patrick Creighton: What Is the FBI really looking for in NCAA probe?

Sean Miller's name has come up in FBI probe. Wikipedia

This is something that has been bothering me since the first reports of the FBI investigating college basketball began to surface: Why does the FBI care about the NCAA?

The FBI, normally completely tight lipped in an investigation, has suddenly sprung more leaks than the Titanic.  We continue to get more and more leaked information regarding coaches, players, universities, shoe company execs, etc. The common thread:  Andy Miller, Christian Dawkins, and ASM Sports.

As more stories leak about athletes being paid money to A) become a future client of ASM B) become a future client of Adidas C) align with a particular financial planner D) attend a particular university or E) all of the above, one thing remains clear here.  None of these actions are illegal, so why is the FBI involved?

An agent can pay an athlete, advance an athlete, loan money to an athlete, whatever language you want to use, whatever money they want.  It’s not illegal. In fact, today on Nate & Creight we had longtime agent Carl Poston on the show, and he confirmed as much.  So if these actions are not illegal, they are just NCAA violations, why is the FBI wasting taxpayer dollars acting as the NCAA’s watchdog?

Poston said he believed the FBI was gathering information.  What potential one-and-done kid is getting a payday to attend what school hardly seems like something that should be the FBI’s concern.  Then he raised a point that at first didn’t seem to matter but the more I thought about it, the more it did.  There’s a lot of kids, a lot of coaches, and A LOT of money.

Poston then gave the example of if you falsify documents on a loan, you break laws.  If the money gets wired interstate, its federal law being broken.  Again, my first reaction was “Adidas doesn’t need to take out a loan to pay anyone,” but what if all the money wasn’t coming straight from Adidas?

What if the money was coming from ASM?  Where did they get the money?  Did they take out short term loans that were obtained using falsified information?  Did they skim off the top? Did they use money that belonged to other clients or to investors without their consent? Did they employ a host of other illicit or illegal maneuvers to obtain those funds?

The most recent bombshell news involved University of Arizona head coach Sean Miller allegedly discussing making a $100K payment to an athlete who eventually came to play ball for Miller at Arizona on a wiretap.  The wiretap was ordered on Dawkins’ phone. Therefore, it’s Dawkins, Andy Miller, and ASM Sports that are the real targets in the probe, and the NCAA guys are collateral damage.

There are some people already facing wire fraud charges by the FBI, and based on what we know right now, there’s probably very little chance those charges really stick, because again, the show company or the agency transferring money to these athletes is only an NCAA violation, it isn’t breaking a law. How that payment money has been obtained has been the quiet part of the case.

While realistically we can only speculate on what the FBI is really doing with this NCAA probe, peeling the onion back shows this isn’t really an NCAA probe, but an ASM Sports probe. The only real legal issue seems to be the money trail.

We have all been looking at NCAA coaches and athletes and trying to see where the money trail ends.  Maybe the FBI is looking at where that money trail begins?

Patrick Creighton is the host of Nate & Creight heard weekdays 1-3p on SportsMap 94.1 FM & Sports & Shenanigans Sundays 12-5p CT nationwide on SB Nation Radio.  Follow him on Twitter: @pcreighton1

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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