Christian Dawkins is in federal prison. Will Wade is at home. This is a story about sports, money, college basketball, a corrupt justice system, and racism. It’s an American saga.
Since this is the week where everyone starts paying attention to college basketball, it’s the perfect time to remind folks that the FBI’s 2017 investigation into the sport was a complete waste of time that only helped prove how flawed the system is.
Last week, LSU finally fired Wade as its head coach years after he was on an FBI wiretap talking to Dawkins, a former middleman, about paying players. The NCAA’s findings into what Wade was doing are what made LSU finally show him the door, not when the feds originally came knocking. However, Wade is just a blip in this story given the juicier chapters that are being overlooked. A few weeks ago, Dawkins attempted to get a new trial in his case because Scott Carpenter — the undercover FBI agent that Dawkins was unknowingly working with — pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of conversion of government money because he took $13,500 of the money that was supposed to be going to Dawkins so that he could funnel it to the players, from the coaches, that the FBI was targeting, and instead used it to gamble while the meetings were happening in Las Vegas.
For now, we have to wait until May before we find out what will happen to Carpenter as that’s when his sentencing is scheduled as he’s facing a maximum of one year in prison, supervised release, and restitution. But, given the circumstances, don’t be surprised if he gets off with probation. And if that happens, it’s just another example of how messed up all of this is as Dawkins is serving an 18-month federal sentence, while his co-defendants Merl Code and Jim Gatto, who both worked at Adidas, are currently serving one-year and nine-month sentences, respectively. Former Arizona assistant coach Book Richardson already completed a three-month sentence. His boss, former Arizona head coach Sean Miller, along with Wade and Rick Pitino haven’t seen handcuffs. Everybody that the FBI initially went after is free — except maybe one of their own — while all the Black assistant coaches and Dawkins are the ones that are actually being punished.
In the 2020 HBO documentary The Scheme, the wiretaps of the conversation between Wade and Dawkins were finally publicly revealed. Part of the transcript can be read here.
“One hundred percent talking about money,” Dawkins said about Wade in the documentary. “Just audacity, you gotta take your hat off to him, man. He not only didn’t get charged for anything, not only did the government have all this information and evidence and nothing was happening on a criminal level, he also basically just said [expletive] you to the NCAA and to the university he worked for. Man, that was some G [expletive]. And he said [expletive] you to the people that wasn’t with him and he still got to keep his job and make millions of dollars. It’s like the perfect storm. This is the life. [Expletive], they’re paying him a lot money to win games, bro. … Will Wade is definitely a [expletive] gangster for what he did.”
After the documentary came out, LSU suspended Wade because of it and wanted to talk to him about it. Wade then doubled-down and refused to talk to his bosses until the investigation was over. The bold decision worked, as Wade still had a job until last week.
As we approach the start of the NCAA tournament, and as we’re four months from the first anniversary of NIL, it makes you think about how all this happened because the FBI wanted to investigate the “corruptness” of a sport that puts on an annual tournament that’s responsible for making up close to 98 percent of the NCAA’s annual revenue, while none of the players were able to make money until this past summer. And when you realize that, it makes it clear that Christian Dawkins should be the last person in prison.