The FBI is not in the business of publicly apologizing to those collaterally damaged in its investigations.
This may be as close as Jim Larranaga and his staff will get.
Federal prosecutors on Tuesday announced updated charges against a former Adidas executive and his associates in their ongoing probe of college basketball corruption. The new indictment lacked some of the material from the original indictment: namely, a strong implication that Miami and Larranaga participated in their alleged conspiracy.
The report, which mentioned Kansas and North Carolina State for the first time and also discussed Louisville, painted Miami in a much more flattering light than before. It said the scheme was perpetrated by three men who wanted to pay a top 2018 recruit to play at Miami, and ensure he would sign with Adidas and a particular sports agency when he reached the NBA. The scheme, the new report said, aimed to defraud Miami and the NCAA.
It was far less detailed, and struck a different tone than the report the Department of Justice released Sept. 26.
The original report stated that Jim Gatto, Adidas’ since-ousted head of grassroots marketing, and associates Merl Code and Christian Dawkins aimed to “assist one or more coaches” at Miami in landing Orlando-based recruit Nassir Little. The assistance, they said, would come in the form of a $150,000 payment, funneled through back channels “at the request of” Larranaga, who was not named in the original charges but instead referred to as ‘Coach-3’. The two men claimed Larranaga “knows everything” about the scheme.
Tuesday’s updated charges included none of those claims against Miami’s coaches.
The report stripped most of the language about Larranaga, including a passage referencing “Coach-3’s request” that Adidas make a six-figure payment to keep Little from signing with another school.
It also removed any reference to Jonathan Brad Augustine, Little’s travel ball coach who was said to have conspired to pay Little to attend Miami. Augustine was cleared of all charges in February.
The new indictment did include two Larranaga-related items from the original — neither of which prove him a wrongdoer.
Both indictments say Gatto told Code on an Aug. 11 phone call that he previously spoke with Larranaga about Little. In October, Larranaga’s attorney’s acknowledged he did, but said the conversation was related to the Adidas Nations showcase event last Aug. 4-6 in Houston, and not about paying Little to play at UM. Little attended the event, as did then-UM players Dewan Huell and Bruce Brown.
“Coach L was inquiring about Little’s [injured] ankle, about what Little was saying, and how his players did, and other normal things that a coach would talk about,” attorney Ed Shohat told the Miami Herald. “Never was any kind of payment discussed.”
The other carryover mention is that Larranaga, “knows something gotta happen for it to get done,” a phrase that came from a wiretapped Aug. 9 phone call between Dawkins and Code. That refers to Larranaga needing to call Gatto to arrange a payment to secure Little’s commitment. In an October statement, Larranaga said he did nothing wrong. His lawyers said he was cooperating with investigators.
Little and his family signed affidavits, provided to the Post by Larranaga’s lawyer, which say they were never involved in a bidding war. Little now plays for North Carolina.
The New York Times reported a trial for the three men charged will begin Oct. 1.
The indictment came several hours after Miami announced a two-year extension of Larranaga’s contract, through May 31, 2024.
In a press release announcing that move, athletics director Blake James called Larranaga, 68, an “integral part of our athletics department’s success, and he continues to demonstrate year after year that he is one of the best basketball coaches in the nation,” adding that Miami was “fortunate” to have him.
Larranaga is 161-79 in seven seasons at UM, reaching the NCAA Tournament four times and the Sweet 16 twice.
The original federal report, which was released two weeks before Miami’s Nov. 10 season-opener, created a stormy situation for Larranaga and his staff. Subsequent fear of NCAA sanctions, coaching changes, and other dark possibilities were a major reason no recruits signed with Miami during the November signing period. When UM extended Larranaga’s contract, it had no verbal commits for 2018 or future classes.
But it believed in its coaching staff. Tuesday’s documents may help others do so.