Matt Figger on ‘The Scandal’
Matt Figger – Part Two
(St. Louis, MO) – Matt Figger is a straight forward, honest speaking, open book kind of guy. You can see the reasons for his early success at Austin Peay. He is a no frills kind of guy that speaks right to the issues. You can understand why his players believe in him, his approach and their chance to succeed.
Since Figger’s former associate, Lamont Evans is one of the center pieces of last fall’s basketball recruiting/money laundering scandal and we felt it would be disingenuous to avoid the subject completely, but coach Figger was very willing to address it head on.
The first year Austin Peay coach, with no sense of defensiveness, nor any kind of turning his back on his former co-worker, Figger weighed in.
“Evans is one of four assistant coaches at Power 5 programs that has been charged in an FBI investigation about a fraud and corruption scheme in the NCAA. Along with Evans, Tony Bland of USC, Chuck Person of Auburn and Emanuel Richardson of Arizona were also charged. All four of the coaches were suspended by the schools initially.” (SI.com)
Evans worked with head coach Frank Martin and Figger at both Kansas State and South Carolina. Current Illinois head coach Brad Underwood was part of that staff and brought Evans with him to Oklahoma State for the 2016-17 season.
South Carolina has been cleared of any wrongdoing in the on-going investigation.
Figger says he was shocked when he first learned of the allegations against Evans, and he’s convinced that Evans wouldn’t knowingly violate federal laws in the recruiting of potential student athletes.
While acknowledging potential wrong-doings Figger says Evans remains a friend and he firmly believes his former co-worker genuinely cared about the players as people. He says cheating, no matter what the form, should not be tolerated in college basketball.
Figger uses phrases like ‘being caught up in the moment’ and ‘the lines get skewed’ to describe what potentially goes on in college recruiting. Other coaches have told me they have no doubt that ‘innocent programs’ unknowingly break rules. Universally the coaches with whom I have spoken, say there is a difference between outright cheating and innocently crossing a confusing line.
Figger says of Evans and those caught up in last fall’s scandal, that the monetary amounts don’t make sense. People like Evans, he says, have large enough salaries that the amounts they reportedly were paid, just don’t make sense. One source told me Evans was receiving over $500,000 as Oklahoma State’s Associate Head Coach, so an amount of $22,000 he is charged with receiving would seem insignificant.
Figger says he and other South Carolina staffers have been cleared in the federal investigation.
In Part One – Firm Foundation, Figger discussed things he learned from working with Frank Martin for ten years, the good foundation left in place by former APSU coach Dave Loos and the talents of some of the players on his current roster.
In Part Three, we’ll discuss his thoughts about the OVC and some of his philosophies on coaching.