OK State given 1-year NCAA tournament ban

The NCAA Committee on Infractions on Friday placed Oklahoma State‘s men’s basketball program on three years of probation and banned the Cowboys from playing in postseason tournaments this coming season.

The penalties are the result of a Level I violation involving former associate head coach Lamont Evans, who was sentenced in June 2019 to three months in prison for accepting between $18,150 and $22,000 in bribes to steer players from South Carolina and Oklahoma State to certain agents and financial advisors.

The NCAA also hit Evans with a 10-year show cause penalty. During that period, any NCAA member school employing him must restrict him from any athletically related duties unless it shows cause why the restrictions should not apply.

The NCAA also reduced OSU’s men’s basketball scholarships by three during the 2020-21 through 2022-23 academic years and imposed other recruiting restrictions. The Cowboys had previously self-imposed a $10,000 fine plus 1% of its men’s basketball operating budget and reduced the number of official visits for three years.

“The conduct at issue in this case was related to a broader scheme that involved money and influence at the intersection of college and professional basketball,” the committee said in its decision. “The scheme resulted in the arrest and prosecution of multiple individuals — including college basketball coaches — on conspiracy and bribery charges, and it led to significant NCAA reforms.”

Evans was among four assistant coaches arrested in September 2017 following an FBI investigation into bribes and other corruption in college basketball recruiting.

South Carolina announced in February that it also had received a notice of allegations, including a Level I violation, related to Evans accepting bribes while employed by the Gamecocks.

In a notice of allegations sent to Oklahoma State in November, the NCAA alleged that Evans “violated the NCAA principles of ethical conduct when he knowingly solicited and received benefits for facilitating or arranging a meeting between student-athletes and financial advisors” from April 2016 to September 2017.

Cowboys officials had argued to the Committee on Infractions that Evans accepted the bribes solely for his personal benefit, and “the University did not benefit in any way and was considered by the federal government to be the victim of the scheme.”

Oklahoma State is the first program to receive NCAA sanctions for rules violations related to the federal bribery and corruption criminal cases. Kansas, Louisville, NC State, South Carolina, TCU and USC have announced that they’ve received NCAA notices of allegations.

Auburn and Creighton have declined to confirm whether they’re received NCAA notices of allegations.

Sources have previously told ESPN that Arizona and LSU are also under NCAA investigation related to violations in their men’s basketball programs.

OSU fired Evans for cause two days after his arrest, while former forward Jeffrey Carroll missed the first three games of the 2017-18 season due to a review of the men’s basketball program.

At the time of his termination, Evans was the highest-paid assistant coach in college basketball, earning $600,000 annually.

At Evans’ sentencing in New York, U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos said Evans’ actions were “perhaps more egregious” than those of two other ex-assistant coaches he had earlier sentenced: Arizona’s Emanuel “Book” Richardson and USC’s Tony Bland. Ramos ordered Evans to forfeit the $22,000 he received from financial advisors Marty Blazer and Munish Sood and work 100 hours of community service.

Oklahoma State has signed No. 2-ranked senior Cade Cunningham for the upcoming season. He’s the projected No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA draft. Oklahoma State hired Cunningham’s brother as an assistant coach last summer.