Ex-Louisville assistant basketball coaches accused of directly paying recruits
Two former Louisville assistant basketball coaches allegedly made payments to two recruits in an attempt to ensure they committed to play for the Cardinals, further implicating the program in the college hoops recruiting scandal.
Cardinals associate head coach Kenny Johnson allegedly made a payment of $1,300 to the father of former Louisville recruit Brian Bowen, while assistant Jordan Fair reportedly gave a second, unnamed prospect $900.
The accusation was made in court Thursday by federal prosecutors seeking to convict three defendants of bribery and fraud charges linked to the FBI's explosive pay-to-play college basketball investigation.
During testimony Thursday morning from Louisville compliance director John Carns, prosecutor Edward Diskant asked Carns if he was aware of the payments made by Johnson and Fair.
"I didn't know anything about that," Carns testified, answering the same for both questions.
Thursday's allegations are the first time Louisville coaches have been accused of taking direct action to pay recruits as part of a scheme by Adidas officials and other financial advisers to influence prospects to sign with Adidas-sponsored schools.
"We're monitoring the proceedings but are not addressing items from the case at this time," Louisville athletics spokesman Kenny Klein wrote in a text message to the Courier-Journal.
Bowen is one of the central figures in the case as federal prosecutors have charged that an Adidas executive, a former Adidas consultant and a college basketball runner conspired to pay Bowen's family $100,000 in exchange for him committing to play for Louisville.
Bowen's father cut a deal with the prosecution in exchange for immunity and is expected to testify in the trial.
Fair and Johnson are also accused of altering Bowen's unofficial visit form to conceal the presence of agent Christian Dawkins, an ex-AAU team director and one of the three defendants on trial in New York.
Louisville fired Fair and Johnson last fall after the scandal broke, following the dismissal of head coach Rick Pitino. None of the three coaches were charged by the FBI or mentioned by name in the federal complaint, although Pitino has been identified as "Coach 2" and since outed Fair as "Coach 1."
Pitino told the Courier Journal on Thursday he was "dumbfounded and devastated" by the allegation that Johnson made the $1,300 payment.
"He looked me square in the eye and said he did nothing wrong," Pitino said. "I hope it's not true."
The complaint cited a recording of a July 2017 hotel room meeting in Las Vegas in which participants discussed funneling money to the family of a Louisville recruit. The FBI's complaint described a Louisville assistant coach — identified as Coach 1 — as being a part of that hotel room meeting.
“We gotta be very low key,” Coach 1 said, according to the FBI complaint, given Louisville's NCAA infractions case relating to the previous escort scandal.
The NCAA has been told it cannot investigate the allegations until the FBI completes its investigation, so Johnson and Fair have been neither cleared nor condemned by the NCAA.
Johnson was hired in May as an assistant coach at La Salle University in Philadelphia. A La Salle athletics spokesman declined to comment Thursday in an email to the Courier Journal.
Fair surfaced this summer coaching on the travel basketball circuit for Team Breakdown, an AAU program in Florida that he had previously helped coach.
Christian Red contributed to this story.
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