The Courier-Journal was the first to report on Thursday evening that Louisville signee Brian Bowen has been cleared by the FBI. This gives the University of Louisville to now conduct their own investigation to determine Bowen’s eligibility.
As you likely know, Bowen’s recruitment to UofL was featured in a federal complaint regarding a nearly three year FBI investigation into a college basketball bribery/recruiting scandal. The school’s involvement led to the dismissal of head coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.
To be clear, the FBI clearing Bowen of any wrong doing under federal law has zero to do with his NCAA eligibility. That said, he’s still technically eligible under NCAA rules, due to the fact that he was never ruled ineligible. The FBI getting involved before the NCAA was made aware of any wrong doing is what makes this a unique situation.
UofL will need to investigate on their own and decide if Bowen is in fact eligible under NCAA rules. His attorney, Jason Setchen, seems optimistic that Bowen will not be deemed permanently ineligible by the NCAA.
Excerpt from the Courier-Journal
“Brian and I are excited with this development and look forward to working with the university and the NCAA to clarify any concerns or issues that they have in furtherance of Brian’s prompt return to competition,” Setchen said.
University spokesman John Karman confirmed that Bowen remains enrolled at U of L but declined further comment citing the federal investigation. The university has yet to clarify whether Bowen has simply been suspended on a precautionary basis or been declared ineligible, which would make his reinstatement subject to NCAA approval.
“I remain optimistic based on my dealings with the university,” Setchen said. “So far, the university has been very cooperative and open to having further discussions. I believe the university will give Brian a fair opportunity.”
Telephone calls recorded by the FBI implicated Bowen’s father, Brian Sr., in an alleged scheme involving Cardinals coaches, Adidas representatives and other intermediaries to secure the son’s commitment to U of L in June.
A sworn deposition by the FBI’s John Vourderis described an intercepted call between sports agent Christian Dawkins and a man Vourderis believed to be Bowen Sr., arranging a payment of $19,500 on July 13. A subsequent call between Dawkins and financial advisor Munish Sood indicated the payment was made.
“Brian (Jr.) was not aware of any of the alleged activities,” Setchen said, “and it is our position that he has not violated any NCAA rules or bylaws. … It’s a fundamental aspect of being an American that we are not held responsible for the actions of other people and we have a right to associate. It is unfair to Brian or any student-athlete to try and punish them for actions of others who are not in their control.”
Setchen’s argument echoes that used on behalf of Cam Newton, who led Auburn to the 2010 BCS championship after allegations that his father had solicited the quarterback’s services to Mississippi State for $180,000. The NCAA subsequently revised its rules to designate parents as agents if they represent or attempt to represent an athlete “for the purpose of marketing his or her athletics ability or reputation for financial gain.”
“While the rules have changed slightly since the Cam Newton case,” Setchen said, “the mitigating factors in Brian’s case are not dissimilar in that he had no knowledge of any of the alleged improprieties.’’
Setchen will need to show his client did not directly benefit from his father’s involvement in the scheme. NCAA bylaws state that the receipt of “significant monetary benefits from an agent” constitute crossing “the threshold of professionalism” and, therefore, preclude reinstatement.
Stuart Brown, an Atlanta-based attorney experienced with eligibility issues, said it is not the NCAA’s policy to punish athletes for their relatives’ actions and predicted that Bowen was likely to gain reinstatement based on the evidence that has surfaced so far.
“I would suspect the young man would get reinstated with some repayment and community service stipulations and some meaningful withholding (from competition), but certainly not a whole season,” Brown said. “That’s presuming that the institution decides that a violation occurred.
“… I’d be very surprised if there were permanent ineligibility.”