Report: Michigan State basketball star Miles Bridges' mom linked to FBI probe

Chris Solari
Detroit Free Press
Miles Bridges, left, talks with his mother, Cynthia, on April 13, 2017 in East Lansing. Bridges, a 6-foot-7 forward from Flint, announced he is returning to Michigan State for his sophomore season.

Michigan State is tied to another major scandal, this time involving the FBI's probe into college basketball corruption.

And Miles Bridges is part of the focus.

Federal documents obtained by Yahoo! Sports link the MSU star's mother, Cynthia Bridges, to Christian Dawkins, the disgraced middle man for former NBA agent Andy Miller and his ASM Sports agency.

Dawkins, a Saginaw native, is one of 10 men the FBI charged in a sweeping investigation that uncovered fraud, bribery and corruption in college basketball in September, days before practice began for the 2017-18 season. The U.S. Attorney's Office charged Dawkins with three counts of wire fraud and one count of money-laundering conspiracy. 

More:Who is Christian Dawkins, linchpin in FBI probe of top basketball programs?

The connection to Bridges' mom, which doesn't seem as egregious as the FBI's other findings, was revealed in Dawkins' ASM expense report documents from May 3, 2016. The documents were seized by the FBI and obtained by Yahoo, and they included two items involving Cynthia Bridges. Those were:

* “Redwood Lodge. Lunch w/Miles Bridges Parents. $70.05.”

* “ATM Withdrawl: Miles Bridges mom advance. $400”

Also listed on Dawkins’ spreadsheets, according to Yahoo, were paid dinners with MSU basketball coach Tom Izzo.

The allegations continue a whirlwind month for MSU's athletic department and Izzo, who, along with football coach Mark Dantonio, has been a focal point in an ESPN "Outside the Lines" investigation that alleged sexual assault and/or violence against women by a handful of football and basketball players over the past decade. And in late January, the NCAA announced it would launch an investigation into the MSU athletic department's handling of sexual abuse cases involving former sports medicine doctor Larry Nassar.

Izzo, in response to the Yahoo report, issued a statement Friday afternoon denying any wrongdoing.

“We are aware of the report in Yahoo! Sports,” Izzo said. “While we will cooperate with any and all investigations, we have no reason to believe that I, any member of our staff or student-athlete did anything in violation of NCAA rules.” 

Read more:

Who is Christian Dawkins and how is he tied to NBA agent Andy Miller?

Per the NCAA, “parents may not be given benefits, gifts, or discounts by institutions, other parents, or other representatives of Athletics Interest.” Attempts to contact Cynthia Bridges were not immediately successful on Friday.  

Yahoo reported it did not view all of the documents the federal government possesses. The document that connected the Bridges family to Dawkins was not included among the photos of Dawkins' expense spreadsheets in the report.

It also is not clear whether Bridges, who was a preseason All-American, knew about the meetings or the alleged cash payment. He committed to MSU on Oct. 3, 2015, with his mother and sister by his side at Mott Community College in his hometown of Flint. Bridges signed his letter of intent to play for the Spartans on Nov. 11 that year and enrolled at MSU in June 2016.

The No. 1 Spartans play at Wisconsin on Sunday (1 p.m./CBS) in their regular-season finale. It is not clear whether Bridges will play in that game or in the upcoming Big Ten and NCAA tournaments. Per NCAA rules, any receipt of extra benefits "will immediately place the student-athlete’s eligibility" in jeopardy.

Bridges talked about the FBI investigation during Big Ten media day on Oct. 19 at Madison Square Garden.

“I knew eventually stuff was gonna start coming out like that,” Bridges told reporters. “I didn’t know it was gonna be that big for the FBI to get into it. I’m just happy I went to Michigan State and did things the right way instead of going other places.”

Asked whether it was good for college basketball, Bridges quickly responded, “Not for the people that’s doing the wrong stuff.”

“People are gonna be way more scared to do stuff now illegally,” he said. “I think the FBI coming in really helps that. … You hear things all the time about people getting money, people doing this and people doing that. One time, one person is gonna hear any of that soon everybody else is gonna find out.”

Interim MSU athletic director Bill Beekman in a statement said the university has contacted both the NCAA and Big Ten.

“MSU is committed to a culture of NCAA compliance,” Beekman said. “We have proactively contacted the NCAA and Big Ten Conference. As Coach Izzo has stated, there is no evidence that he or anyone in his program, including student-athletes, did anything impermissible.”

NCAA President Mark Emmert issued a statement early Friday morning about the Yahoo report.

“These allegations, if true, point to systematic failures that must be fixed and fixed now if we want college sports in America,” Emmert wrote. “Simply put, people who engage in this kind of behavior have no place in college sports. They are an affront to all those who play by the rules. Following the Southern District of New York's indictments last year, the NCAA Board of Governors and I formed the independent Commission on College Basketball, chaired by Condoleezza Rice, to provide recommendations on how to clean up the sport. With these latest allegations, it's clear this work is more important now than ever. The Board and I are completely committed to making transformational changes to the game and ensuring all involved in college basketball do so with integrity. We also will continue to cooperate with the efforts of federal prosecutors to identify and punish the unscrupulous parties seeking to exploit the system through criminal acts.”

In September, the FBI revealed the early findings of its ongoing, two-year investigation and issued arrest warrants for Dawkins and nine others on charges of bribery, wire fraud, corruption and/or illegally funneling money to prospects and their families through shoe companies. Among those implicated were four assistant coaches at Division I schools, representatives from major shoe companies and financial advisers, including Dawkins. It cost Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino and his Louisville athletic director, Tom Jurich, their jobs.

NCAA officials said they were not aware of the federal investigation until those charges were unveiled.

Izzo, himself a Basketball Hall of Fame coach, said in early October the scandal among his peers was both “disappointing” and “sad," and he called it a “black eye” for the coaching profession.

“When you have a bunch more people touching you, you got a lot more chance for a bunch more problems,” Izzo said, about two weeks after the FBI story broke. “I think that's what has disappointed me. I tell every recruit that comes here as a freshman and sophomore, when they come here with their family, my only piece of advice (is) don't let the process ruin you, because it will. … You've been raised by mom and dad for 17 years, and things are OK. You've been raised by mom and grandma, whoever it is. For the most part, that's who is your group. They've done a pretty good job because you're eligible in school and you can become a big-time basketball player. Why all of a sudden do we need 20 other people coming into your world?”

Along with Bridges, six other high-profile basketball players from Michigan — Brian Bowen, Josh Jackson, Eric Davis, Kyle Kuzma, Edmond Sumner and Monte Morris — were linked to Dawkins in the Yahoo report.

Dawkins' spreadsheets show a $7,000 cash advance and payment for about $1,500 in flights for Bowen and his parents and a $1,500 in cash advances to Davis, both from Dawkins’ hometown Saginaw.

Bowen, who originally signed with Louisville in 2017, was ruled ineligible after the initial FBI arrests. His father, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal, allegedly was promised $100,000 to make sure his son attended an Adidas-sponsored school, like Louisville.  Bowen has since transferred to South Carolina but remains ineligible. Davis is a junior guard at Texas.

Kuzma, a Flint native who is now with the Los Angeles Lakers, allegedly received at least $9,500 while playing for Utah, according to the documents.

And the mother of Detroit native Jackson, Apples Jones, allegedly received $2,700 while her son was at Kansas, according to the documents.

Sumner, a Detroit native and Birmingham Detroit Country Day grad who was a second-round pick of the New Orleans Pelicans, also is listed in Yahoo’s report. Documents allege that Sumner and/or his father, Ernest, received at least $7,000 in advances while Edmond was at Xavier.

Dawkins also is alleged to have paid for meals for former Flint star Monte Morris, who played at Iowa State.

Among the other high-profile current college stars implicated in the Yahoo story are Alabama’s Collin Sexton and Duke’s Wendell Carter.

“Just like everything in life, I think there's maybe a few — and I don't know who's right, wrong or indifferent, nor do I care anymore — but there's a few that screw it up for the rest,” Izzo said in October. “Don't paint the brush over everybody because it's not the way it is.”

Dawkins’ father, Lou, spent seven years at Saginaw High and was former MSU star Draymond Green’s head coach there. He currently in his first year as an assistant coach at Cleveland State after working for former Izzo assistant Mark Montgomery at Northern Illinois for six years.

Lou Dawkins’ younger son, Dorian, died from a heart condition while participating at an MSU basketball camp in 2009. He was 14. Before moving into the pro basketball world, Christian Dawkins ran the AAU program Dorian’s Pride that included Bowen and Kuzma.

Contact Chris Solari: Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari.

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