Michigan State's Tom Izzo denies wrongdoing in response to Miles Bridges report
Michigan State is tied to another major scandal, this time involving the FBI's probe into college basketball corruption.
Federal documents obtained by Yahoo! Sports link the MSU star's mother, Cynthia Bridges, to Christian Dawkins, a 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.
The connection to Bridges' mom was revealed in Christian's ASM expense report documents from May 3, 2016, which were seized by the FBI and obtained by Yahoo. The documents included two items involving Cynthia Bridges. Those were:
* “Redwood Lodge. Lunch w/Miles Bridges Parents. $70.05.”
* “ATM Withdrawl: Miles Bridges mom advance. $400”
MSU coach Tom Izzo issued a statement Friday afternoon denying any wrongdoing.
“While we will cooperate with any and all investigations,” Izzo said, “we have no reason to believe that I, any member of our staff or student-athlete did anything in violation of NCAA rules.”
Per the NCAA, “parents may not be given benefits, gifts, or discounts by institutions, other parents, or other representatives of Athletics Interest.”
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 the NCAA in late January announced it would launch an investigation into the MSU athletic department's handling of sexual abuse cases involving former sports medicine doctor Larry Nassar.
Messages to Cynthia Bridges and MSU have not yet been returned. The No. 1 Spartans play at Wisconsin on Sunday (1 p.m., CBS).
It is not clear if 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 Flint. Bridges signed his letter of intent to play for the Spartans on Nov. 11 that year and enrolled at MSU in June 2016.
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 if 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.”
Yahoo reported it did not view all of the documents the federal government possesses. The document with the links to Bridges was not included among the photos of the spreadsheets shown in the report.
Also listed on Dawkins’ spreadsheets, according to Yahoo, were paid dinners with MSU basketball coach Tom Izzo.
Contact Chris Solari: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Download our Spartans Xtra app for free on Apple and Android devices!