MADISON, Wisc. — Michigan State Spartans star Miles Bridges is confident that he’ll get to play out the rest of the season for the No. 2-ranked Spartans after he was cleared by the NCAA to play in his team’s regular-season finale Sunday afternoon.
Bridges said he was nervous that he could miss Sunday’s game after reports this week indicated that his mother may have received money from a man associated with professional basketball agent Andy Miller. Bridges spoke to a school compliance officer after those reports surfaced. He found out Saturday afternoon that he would be allowed to play.
“I haven’t [taken any money]. My mom hasn’t. It’s as simple as that,” Bridges said after helping clinch Michigan State’s first outright Big Ten title since 2009 with a pair of last-minute free throws at Wisconsin on Sunday afternoon.
Bridges, Izzo and associate head coach Dwayne Stephens were all named in Yahoo! reports earlier this week about the ongoing FBI probe into corruption in college basketball. According to documents revealed in that report, a runner for an agent claimed to have withdrawn $400 from an ATM to give to Bridges’ mother. The same runner, Christian Dawkins, is a central figure in the FBI’s investigation and says he met with Izzo and Stephens, according to emails he sent to Miller.
Izzo said he, too, was confident that Bridges will be available to play for Michigan State throughout the upcoming Big Ten tournament and the NCAA tournament. He said he wasn’t involved in the process that cleared Bridges during the several days leading up to Sunday’s game and that he didn’t know the details of what evidence made those groups believe no violation had occurred.
“The NCAA moved on it quickly and there are reasons that they did,” Izzo said. “They cleared him to play or I wouldn’t have played him.”
Bridges said he met with a compliance officer, but not with anyone from the NCAA or the FBI. He said he thinks his mother also submitted a statement to the compliance office, but he did not know what it said. Bridges said he wasn’t sure if his mother has talked to any investigators from the NCAA or FBI.
Bridges said he spoke with his mother during the last several days to see how she was handling criticism on social media. He did not ask her if she had taken money from anyone or what she said in her statement to the compliance office. He said he would likely ask those questions in a later conversation.
When asked if his mother could have taken money from someone, he said: “I don’t know anything.” He later said that he was certain that no one in his family had violated any NCAA rules.
Bridges said he has never met Dawkins and wouldn’t be able to recognize him if they were standing in the same room. Dawkins’ father, Lou, was a high school coach in Saginaw, Michigan, who coached former Michigan State star Draymond Green along with 10 other future college basketball players. He has since coached at multiple colleges. Another of Dawkins’ sons, Dorian, tragically died after collapsing on the court at a Michigan State basketball camp in 2009.
When asked what type of relationship he had with Christian Dawkins, Izzo said: “I do have a long relationship with his dad. I was not involved in this thing at all.” Izzo was referring to the investigation that cleared Bridges over the last several days when he said “this thing.”
Stephens said in a statement released Saturday afternoon he’s confident that he didn’t break any NCAA rules. He coached the team from Michigan State’s bench Sunday. In an email from Dawkins to Miller uncovered by the FBI, Dawkins said he was trying to close a deal that would send touted prospect Brian Bowen to Michigan State. The email said Dawkins was “trying to do a trade deal for [current or former Michigan State players] Gary Harris, Miles Bridges, etc.” to join Miller’s agency in exchange for Bowen’s commitment, according to the Yahoo! report.
“Throughout my career as a college basketball coach, I’ve been committed to following all NCAA rules, including during the recruiting process,” Stephens said in the statement. “Any insinuation to the contrary is false.”
Izzo said he was under the impression that any threat about Bridges’ eligibility or Michigan State suffering NCAA penalties because of those issues had been handled when he was cleared this week.
“I think it’s over,” he said. “But you’d have to ask our compliance people or the NCAA on that.”
Michigan State did not respond to requests from reporters to speak to members of its compliance office.