Creighton will enter the most important stretch of its 2018-19 season with assistant coach Preston Murphy embroiled in a bribery scandal.
The CU athletic department announced Friday evening that it had placed Murphy on administrative leave. The decision came 24 hours after a federal indictment accused a Creighton assistant of accepting a $6,000 bribe during a meeting with a would-be sports agent.
“Assistant men’s basketball coach Preston Murphy has been placed on administrative leave pending an internal review,” Athletic Director Bruce Rasmussen said in a statement. “We fully intend to cooperate with authorities but will not comment further on the continuing investigation given our policy of not discussing personnel matters.”
Murphy did not respond to a request for comment Friday night. He did not attend Creighton’s practice Friday.
The rest of the Jays, who are aiming to make a third consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, have spent the last two days preparing for their regular season finale against DePaul at 7 p.m. Saturday at the CHI Health Center. They’ll play in the Big East tournament next week.
But they’ll compete amid controversy.
The federal indictment, filed Thursday, did not contain new charges. But it did allege that NCAA rules were broken.
The 31-page document stated that two assistant coaches — one from a school in Nebraska and the other from a school in Texas — agreed in separate meetings in July 2017 to steer players to a new sports agency run by Christian Dawkins. An undercover law enforcement agent paid each $6,000 in cash.
TCU announced Friday afternoon that it had placed assistant Corey Barker on administrative leave. Creighton’s decision came a few hours later.
Creighton’s connection to Dawkins centers on 2017 prospect Brian Bowen, whose recruitment was managed behind the scenes by the aspiring agent. Murphy was Bowen’s lead recruiter for CU.
Bowen’s dad, Brian Bowen Sr., said in federal court in October that Dawkins had also brokered an offer through Murphy in which the family would receive $100,000 and two jobs if Bowen decided to play at Creighton. CU officials denied that claim.
Dawkins and former Adidas executive Merl Code were eventually convicted of fraud charges in October after they orchestrated a pay-for-play scheme to help persuade Bowen to sign with Louisville. Dawkins and Code are now facing bribery charges in a federal trial set to begin April 22.
According to Thursday’s indictment, Code claimed during a June 20, 2017, meeting with Dawkins and others in New York City that he knew college coaches who “would be open to participating” in a bribery scheme.
Code said during a July 7, 2017, telephone call that he “expected to be paid $5,000 for each corrupt men’s college basketball coach that he introduced to Dawkins,” according to the indictment. An unnamed Creighton coach was mentioned during that call, according to the indictment.
Murphy joined the Bluejays in 2015 after spending a year at Boston College and four seasons his alma mater, Rhode Island. He quickly made a key impact on the recruiting trail for CU, and he’s played an integral role for the Jays during their regular scouting and game-planning prep work for each opponent.
But they’ll operate without him for now, in an especially critical stretch for the team.
Creighton has won its last four games, but to earn an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament, it’s presumed that CU will need to win two or three more. That starts against DePaul on Saturday, which coach Greg McDermott said would be an important day.
“It’s a big, big game,” McDermott said after Creighton’s 76-70 win over Providence.