Clemson to ‘immediately conduct a review’ as hoops assistant linked to FBI NCAA case

Clemson coach Brad Brownell wraps up season, looks ahead to next year

Tigers missed out on 2019 NCAA Tournament
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Tigers missed out on 2019 NCAA Tournament

A federal trial continued on Thursday in New York City, and Clemson’s national championship football team, Zion Williamson and the Tigers’ men’s basketball team were brought into the discussion because of something an assistant hoops coach said on an FBI wiretap, according to reporters in the courtroom.

Clemson assistant basketball coach Steve Smith was caught on a wiretap discussing the recruitment of Williamson, as well as the Clemson football program, according to testimony coverage by The Associated Press and Matt Norlander of CBSSports at the FBI trial related to college basketball corruption.

Clemson responded to the testimony.

“We are aware of the developments in federal court today involving one of our men’s basketball assistant coaches. We take this matter seriously and will immediately conduct a review,” Clemson Athletics said in a statement.

Clemson declined to say whether a person or program was being reviewed, referring a request for further comment back to the statement the school released.

Smith was caught on video wiretap talking with agent Christian Dawkins and an undercover FBI agent about “the recruitment and potential payments to be made to Zion Williamson’s family” in July of 2017, Norlander posted on Twitter.

Video recordings of meetings with college coaches were played at the criminal trial of Dawkins and an amateur basketball coach, Merl Code, who are charged with paying bribes to assistant basketball coaches to help secure NBA-bound players as customers, The Associated Press reported.

Louis Martin Blazer is a financial adviser who started cooperating with the government after pleading guilty to ripping off clients for more than $2 million. He described the meetings to a jury during his third day on the witness stand.

Smith also discussed the football program in relation to Williamson’s recruitment, according to Norlander’s coverage Thursday.

“That’s why football is so successful, is if you do it and use resources at Clemson, like you can really keep everything tight,” Smith said on the wiretap, according to Norlander’s updates.

In more of the wiretap played in court, Smith said “It’s a small college town. … You can come to a game one night, after the game you see a dude out there in a nice looking suit, you like, wait a minute now,” according to Norlander.

Clemson is scheduled to hold a Board of Trustees meeting Friday morning and contractual changes for men’s basketball assistant coaches are on the agenda.

Contractual changes are also scheduled to take place for head football coach Dabo Swinney, defensive coordinator Brent Venables and head women’s basketball coach Amanda Butler, as well as for Athletics Director Dan Radakovich.

As of late Thursday afternoon a Clemson spokesperson was unaware of any changes to the Board of Trustees meeting.

Smith just wrapped up his seventh season on Clemson’s staff under Brad Brownell. He joined the Tigers prior to the 2012-13 season. Before joining Clemson’s staff, he previously coached at Georgia Southern and USC Upstate. He played college basketball for two years at Morgan State before serving in the Army from 1994-2000.

In addition to Clemson, the University of South Carolina has been mentioned during and leading up to the trial.

Former South Carolina assistant basketball coach Lamont Evans pleaded guilty to a conspiring to commit bribery charge in January. Evans was arrested in September 2017 as federal prosecutors alleged he accepted more than $22,000 while at Oklahoma State and South Carolina in exchange for steering players toward shoe company and financial advisers.

Evans and three other former assistant coaches have pleaded guilty to bribery conspiracy and await sentencing. The others are Southern Cal assistant Tony Bland, Emanuel “Book” Richardson at Arizona and Chuck Person at Auburn University.

The Associated Press contributed to this story