Tai Streets, Michigan and Brian Bowen: What you need to know

Tuesday, October 9, 2018 - 7:25pm

The Michigan basketball team came under question after former player Tai Streets was mentioned in the Brian Bowen trial.

The Michigan basketball team came under question after former player Tai Streets was mentioned in the Brian Bowen trial. Buy this photo
Amelia Cacchione/Daily

On Tuesday, Brian Bowen, Sr. — the father of former top men’s basketball recruit Brian Bowen, Jr. — testified in court that Amateur Athletic Union coach and former Michigan athlete Tai Streets gave the younger Bowen $5,000 to play for Streets’ AAU team, Meanstreets.

Bowen, Jr., a focus of this week’s college basketball corruption trial because of numerous NCAA violations during his recruitment, was never reported to have any monetary offer from the Wolverines. However, Streets played on the Michigan football team from 1995-1999 and the men’s basketball team in 1997. Because of that, he is considered a representative of the university under NCAA bylaws.

“Following testimony in a federal court today, a claim was made that a former U-M student-athlete offered money to a basketball player in exchange for participation on a youth team,” the Michigan athletic department said in a statement to The Daily. “Integrity in the college basketball environment is an important issue and we will continue to monitor this situation.” 

But what could the implications be for the Wolverines and what would they mean? The Daily spoke with business lawyer Richard Hoeg about the scandal’s possible impact on the University and its athletic department.

Why is Tai Streets considered a representative of the University?

The NCAA’s bylaws include provisions for people deemed “representatives of athletics interests” because people not directly associated with the program — players and coaches — may still have an interest in helping the athletic program. Such people can have an impact on recruiting.

Per bylaw 13.02.9, anyone who has been involved in promoting an institution’s (in this case Michigan’s) athletic program is considered a representative of athletics interests — a distinction he holds for life, even if he is no longer associated with the program.

“You might be able to argue that former players don’t fall fully under that paradigm,” Hoeg said. “ … But (the NCAA has) historically treated former players as representatives.”

Tai Streets paid Bowen to play on a youth team, not for the Wolverines. So why would that have implications for Michigan?

This is where the case gets a little bit more complicated. Technically, representatives of athletics interests must follow all the same rules with regards to recruiting as those directly affiliated with the program. However, that’s nearly impossible in practice due to restrictions on when representatives can and cannot have contact with high school athletes.

“(A representative of athletics interests) should not recruit a prospective student-athlete except as permitted by NCAA rules (but) it can’t be applied fully as broadly as it might look,” Hoeg said. “ … Because to do that would be to limit any graduate that had a scholarship at some point from working in a high school, ever.”

The way the rule is applied, the question becomes whether Streets ever specifically recruited Bowen to play for the Wolverines. Streets could have violated that rule even if Bowen was never offered money by Michigan if Streets promoted the school to Bowen, but there has so far been no evidence that he did so.

If Michigan is implicated in the case, what would the punishment be?

Were the Wolverines to be punished, it would be because the athletic department is deemed responsible for all its representatives. In essence, it’s the University’s responsibility to make sure that boosters and former players don’t commit recruiting violations.

There is no set punishment for violations of this type — not to mention that we don’t know what the extent of the violations would be. However, if there was a punishment, it would likely be fairly minor, especially since Michigan coach John Beilein has a reputation as one of the cleanest coaches in college basketball.

“(Michigan) could get in front of it by essentially disavowing Tai Streets as a representative,” Hoeg said. “ … I think it unlikely to be more than a fine. We’re definitely not talking scholarships. Had the player in question played here, we might be talking about loss of eligibility and vacation of wins and things like that.”

That’s where there is one potential snag. Redshirt junior guard Charles Matthews and sophomore forward Isaiah Livers both played on Meanstreets under Streets. Neither player has been mentioned by the investigation and there is no evidence that Streets committed NCAA violations with regards to their recruitments. However, because of Streets’ affiliation with Michigan, it is likely something the NCAA will look into. If an investigation found violations, there would be much bigger implications for the Wolverines. There is currently no evidence that was the case.