Chuck Person, former NBA referee indicted in college basketball fraud case

Dan Wetzel
Columnist

Former NBA great Chuck Person and former NBA referee Rashan Michel were indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury empaneled in New York for their role in the college basketball fraud case.

Person worked as an assistant coach at Auburn when the FBI alleged he agreed to receive bribes to steer Tiger players to certain agents and financial planners. After a brief stint as a professional referee that ended in 2001, Michel became a clothier in Atlanta, where he was also caught up in the scheme to control the business futures of top prospects.

The other eight men arrested in late September in the case, including assistant coaches at Arizona, Oklahoma State and USC, are expected to be indicted on Wednesday.

Known as “The Rifleman” for his dead-on jump shot, Person scored over 13,000 career points in the NBA and was named the league’s 1987 Rookie of the Year. He later got into coaching and won an NBA title as an assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2010. He took a job as an assistant coach at his alma mater Auburn in 2014.

A three-year FBI investigation into what federal prosecutors call “the underbelly of college basketball” alleges a vast web of bribes and kickbacks involving top high school players, NCAA programs, sneaker companies, sports agents, financial planners and others.

Chuck Person exits the Federal Courthouse in Manhattan on October 10, 2017 in New York City. (Getty)

The arrests rocked the sport and ensnared other programs in potential NCAA violations that fell outside of federal law. Players have been suspended at both Alabama and Auburn and internal investigations have been conducted at the University of Miami and South Carolina, among others.

The University of Louisville fired its Hall of Fame coach, Rick Pitino, after the FBI uncovered a plan for Adidas to pay a top recruit $100,000 to play for the Cardinals, which the shoe company sponsors. Pitino denies any knowledge of the plan and is not a target of the investigation.

The indictments are a formality but allow defendants to see the actual evidence against them and then weigh potential plea deals. The U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York has spoken about an ongoing and expanding case.

Sources say prosecutors have made preliminary offers for reduced prison time in exchange for cooperation with at least some of the men. It’s believed no deals have been agreed to at this time. The indictments, however, should serve as a starting block for more serious discussions.