CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Miami coach Jim Larranaga believes he is the “Coach-3” named in court documents detailing the federal investigation of college basketball, and insisted that he will be vindicated.
“I did nothing wrong,” Larranaga said.
Larranaga spoke out Monday for the first time since the scandal broke, reading from a prepared statement and later refusing to answer any questions related to the investigation or other people linked to the federal probe. Larranaga’s name does not appear in court documents, though “Coach-3” is listed as someone who allegedly had conversations with an Adidas executive about paying a recruit $150,000 in exchange for a commitment.
Miami’s athletic department has a 12-year sponsorship deal with Adidas, one that is worth more than $100 million in cash and apparel to the Hurricanes.
“Based on what we know at this time, my legal team believes that I am ‘Coach-3’ as labeled in the original complaint in September though it has not been confirmed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” Larranaga said. “And I am grateful that we have come to that conclusion … and it’s comforting to know that none of my assistants are connected in any way.”
Larranaga said he has spoken with FBI agents, has turned over what he described as thousands of text messages, emails and other materials. The federal probe is ongoing, as is one being conducted by university officials.
“My reputation as a man and coach of character will remain intact,” Larranaga said.
Larranaga was asked about his relationship with Adidas executive Jim Gatto, the apparel company’s director of global sports marketing for basketball, and declined to comment — referring to the disclaimer that was at the end of his written statement about not being able to answer specific questions. He also declined to say if he wishes he could defend himself more openly or vigorously, again reading the disclaimer and saying nothing else.
Hurricanes guard Bruce Brown, a high-profile recruit who signed with Miami before last season, said he had no knowledge of the investigation. Brown was one of two players made available by Miami on Monday, in a six-minute interview session that an athletic communications staff member tried to end multiple times.
“I don’t really know anything about that situation, to be honest with you,” Brown said.
The case became public last month when federal prosecutors said 10 men, among them four assistant coaches at power-conference programs, were charged with using hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to influence athletes’ choice of schools, shoe sponsors and agents.
It has already led to the dismissals of Louisville coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich, firings that became official last week. A new Commission on College Basketball has been established by the NCAA to study the inner workings of the sport and try to find solutions.
That commission, which will be independent from NCAA governance even though several top officials including NCAA President Mark Emmert are part of the group, met for the first time last week. It is chaired by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
“Our goal is to enhance and protect the intercollegiate athletic experience for every student-athlete and, in doing so, to safeguard the integrity of the game,” Rice said Monday.
Larranaga acknowledged that the scandal has taken a toll on him as the season nears. Miami is expected to be one of the top teams in the ACC and perhaps nationally this season.
“It’s been a strain — physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually,” Larranaga said. “But it’s something that’s there. I have to deal with it. And I have the support of my wife and a wonderful family. I have the support of the university and the support of my staff and players. So we just have to keep moving forward.”
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