Tosh Lupoi, the University of Washington assistant football coach who was being pursued to join Steve Sarkisian at USC, is the subject of an investigation by both schools after the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday night that Lupoi gave $4,500 in cash to pay tutoring expenses for a recruit who never qualified for admission.
In a text message to the Times, Lupoi denied any wrongdoing in the pursuit of Andrew Basham, a 300-pound defensive lineman from Lynnwood High School who was part of Sarkisian’s final recruiting class. The story describes two separate cash payments, one $3,000 to an intermediary to pay for private tutoring, and $1,500 to Basham’s father to pay for online classes that would help improve his son’s grade-point average.
If true, the payments would violate NCAA rules against paying for a recruit’s academic services. Lupoi, a player at Cal from 2000 to 2005 and defensive line coach with the Bears, was brought to UW by Sarkisian in 2012 because he was a ferocious recruiter. Sarkisian wanted him to come to Los Angeles to coach the Trojans, but the school was said to have balked at the buyout provisions in his UW contract.
Now it seems USC will have more reasons to balk. The story quoted an anonymous USC official saying Lupoi’s chances are “less than zero” of getting the USC job. Lupoi remains on the UW staff for the Fight Hunger Bowl game Dec. 27 while Sarkisian’s successor, Chris Petersen, recruits and builds his staff.
Of the claims, Lupoi wrote in a text to the Times, “Well that’s certainly false. I deny such allegations of violating NCAA rules w/ the recruitment of Andrew Basham.”
Sarkisian told the Times he knew nothing of the situation until informed USC’s compliance office.
“When I was at Washington, I did everything within my power to make sure we were 100 percent compliant in all NCAA and Pac-12 rules, and I’m going to operate the exact same way here at USC,” Sarkisian told the newspaper. Asked if a head coach was responsible for everything in his program, Sarkisian said, “You do everything in your power to be proactive, to promote a compliant atmosphere . . . I don’t have the power to see everything, hear everything and know everything, but . . . I do take responsibility for that, to promote that atmosphere.”
Mike Davis, a new assistant track and field coach at Lynnwood who help Basham win the state shot put title at the Class 4A track meet, was the go-between who says he received 30 $100 bills in a brown paper sack during a Northgate restaurant meeting with Lupoi Feb. 25 to discuss how to make Basham academically eligible.
The money was to go for a tutorial program. Davis produced bank records to show he deposited the cash in his bank account Feb. 26 and then wrote a check to “Kaplan Pre-college” educational services for $2,999. That spring, Davis said Basham met with a Kaplan tutor several times in Davis’s home.
An online school was also recommended for Basham, which cost $1,500. Lupoi told Davis he would fund that too. Lupoi brought Davis and the boy’s father, Ron, an auto-repair shop owner who put the bill on his credit card, to his UW office. After suggesting they get coffee, Lupoi pointed Basham to a cup with a lid. The cup held 15 $100 bills.
When Basham failed to qualify academically for the fall quarter at UW, Davis called Lupoi to see whether he would still have interest after Basham attended community college for two years. Davis said Lupoi never responded.
“I’m disappointed in Lupoi,” Davis told the Times. “You take a kid and build him up. He doesn’t make it and you leave him out to dry.”