If I told you that the FBI started an undercover investigation to expose the people who secretly pay college basketball recruits, only to find out that their own employees were stealing the agency’s money, would you believe me?
That isn’t my opinion, but it is the story being told, amongst others, in the upcoming HBO documentary “The Scheme,” that will premiere on Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. EST. The film is told from Christian Dawkins’ point of view, the middleman at the center of the investigation, and holds nothing back about how the system works. The convicted felon tells all, as the documentary features audio and video from FBI wiretaps and surveillance.
“I found out that the FBI agents were accused of or alleged to have stole money from the investigation via the Wall Street Journal article,” says Dawkins.
“Apparently what happens when you send a bunch of dudes to Las Vegas with envelopes of cash, is like, not great. And since then there’s been a full blown DOJ investigation into what went wrong with this,” says WSJ reporter Rebecca Davis O’Brien.
No one would have guessed it would end like this.
When the FBI shocked the world, and the NCAA, in the Fall of 2017 by revealing during a press conference that for two years they had been running an undercover investigation into the corruption of college basketball, it felt like the sport was about to change forever.
“The madness of college basketball went well beyond the big dance in March,” said Joon H. Kim, former Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, that day in 2017.
Kim was the real-life version of Chuck Rhoades from Showtime’s “Billions.”
“We have your playbook. Our investigation is ongoing and we are conducting additional interviews as I speak,” added William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s New York Office.
As we now know, the roof didn’t fall in on the sport like we thought it would. Rick Pitino wound up finally getting fired, but then he got another job a few weeks ago, and a top-teenage prospect named Brian Bowen Jr. had his career derailed, all due to the actions of a few adults.
Besides that, after all the hype and drama the investigation created, nothing earth-shattering happened. Well, except for all the black assistant coaches that fell on the sword for their white bosses, and did a few months in prison or received probation.
And while Pitino and other white head coaches like Sean Miller (Arizona), Bill Self (Kansas) and Will Wade (LSU) may still be in the news, it’s not like anybody has ever thought they’d go to prison.
This is still America.
But don’t be surprised if Miller and Wade are looking for new jobs after Tuesday night.
The two-hour film is directed by Pat Kondelis’ Bat Bridge Entertainment and leaves nothing to the imagination. All the “whys” are answered, and the major players are exposed, especially government and law enforcement officials.
However, the timing of things is what sets this documentary apart. At this moment, college basketball should be winding down one of its most lackluster seasons, which was believed to have led to a tournament that practically anybody could win, creating ratings and intrigue.
And in this period without sports, in which people are looking for anything to watch on TV, here comes a documentary that pretty much confirms every unsavory rumor you’ve ever heard about recruiting — all while premiering in the very month that the sport annually dominates, except this year, of course.
It’s still March madness, just on a different court.