Babcock and Williams' Comments on Martin Fox Situation

It didn't take long for the college academic fraud scandal to bleed from Hollywood to athletics. Yahoo published an in-depth report detailing the involvement of Martin Fox.

Fox is widely known across the AAU and college basketball world. Now that the 62-year-old hoops gadfly has been charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering, his murky role within the sport is under scrutiny.

For those who haven't read it, Buzz Williams was quoted in the report and Yahoo noted Fox was behind the bench in Blacksburg when the Hokies beat Miami. Besides a reportedly close relationship, there's nothing to link the two (that is to say, no reported wrongdoing). But the optics are not optimal.

However, Williams stressed to Yahoo he wasn't nervous about his ties to Fox, and Whit Babcock was similarly confident in comments to The Roanoke Times.

Babcock said Williams has assured him that Fox had nothing to do with the standardized tests of any Tech players or recruits.

"He was very clear ... when we talked," Babcock said. "I'm very confident that we're in good shape.

"We'll look into that, but I want to emphasize that we've never had any reason to suspect anything before."

The assurance regarding "standardized tests" is an important one given the NCAA's skepticism with Landers Nolley's ACT score.

Both reports are worth reading in full:

Meet Martin Fox, the mysterious Houston sports fixture caught up in the college bribery scandal

As Virginia Tech basketball is tied to college admissions scandal, AD says there's 'nothing to be concerned about'

Comments

I love Buzz and Whit, but honestly the only thing that's going to matter is what the eventual reports find or (preferably) don't find.

I'd be amazed if there are any big time schools that fraudsters like this guy aren't connected to by at least friendship with staff. They're literally just shady marketers with high school kids as their product. It's a volume business.

If you're reading the above post and thinking, "is this guy serious?!?," you can safely assume I'm not.

Meh. These people, Fox and Singer etc, made a business out of the access and connection to high profile people they knew. Fox was around a lot of programs. Unless hard proof comes out about Tech's involvement this is a non-issue. They were undoubtedly around a lot of programs they never influenced just to keep in-roads for future chances.

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Unfortunately, optics matter. I might agree with you if we didn't have an issue with Nolley, but given that context, this is not a good look.

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I'm not sure many people outside of the Virginia Tech Circle are familiar with the Nolley issue. So for that matter, I'm not sure the optics exist.

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@BuryHokie #ThanksFrank

The NCAA knows. And Fox will be scrutinized by the FBI and potentially other law enforcement agencies. Public optics may not matter, but it sure does to those entities.

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"He was very clear ... when we talked," Babcock said. "I'm very confident that we're in good shape.

"We'll look into that, but I want to emphasize that we've never had any reason to suspect anything before."

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
@BuryHokie #ThanksFrank

Do you think the NCAA and FBI are going to take Whit's words about his conversations with Buzz and conclude that the optics were merely coincidental?

I should note that the FBI may or may not care. It's hard to say. But they have indicted Fox. They'll be asking him questions. I can't imagine they'll ignore his connections with so many NCAA coaches and AAU.

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The FBI already has any recordings they're going to get.

So they already have a pretty good idea of what they're ultimately going to know.

They finished their investigation into Fox?

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I'm not saying they've finished their investigation, but by the time it's publicly announced, they've got a pretty good idea of where there going and how. They're crossing the t's and dotting the i's, but already have incriminating evidence.

and that may be true. Hopefully none of our recruits took their test in Houston.

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Even if the NCAA investigates, could they find the directions on the bottom of a boot? Or report findings within 5 years. The NCAA doesn't operate on optics.

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
@BuryHokie #ThanksFrank

Point of order as a former Agent, the FBI doesn't indict anyone. Grand juries do after being presented evidence by usually an Assistant United States Attorney. That evidence may include FBI physical evidence or testimony by an Agent(s).

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Did you miss all of the Jay Bilas tweets about it? I think this story was around as big as the 'Bud Foster punishes players by charging them money' scandal.

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He made some tweets, a bunch of Hokies saw it, then it went away.

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
@BuryHokie #ThanksFrank

Every part of me hopes this has nothing to do with Landers....

"...I'm getting a little tired of hearing how good everybody else is..." -Coach Fu [This week: 1-0]

My first thought

First off, of course it is Berman with the misleading headline "Virginia Tech tied to... scandal" when there has been nothing linking VT to the scandal. The only links are that Buzz knows the guy tied to a scandal in the same way that half of the D1 coaches probably know this guy.

Second, this may be a blessing in disguise if it makes TAMU think twice about making Buzz one of the 5 highest paid coaches in basketball.

Come to Blacksburg and see what the Hokie Pokie is really all about

To me the more interesting nuggets were that Fox sat behind the VT bench for the Miami game, and was in the locker room after the game. I believe in Buzz's integrity, but dirt has a way of rubbing off.

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Really not here to defend Berman, but normally it's an editor who creates the headline. Either way, yeah, it's a bit overzealous and paints a blurry picture.

Agreed.

It's a misleading headline over a second-hand non-story.

Edit: Having read the takes presented here, it's worth setting the record straight, though I think the headline could have been better written.

So Whit paid him to show up to try and scare off TAMU? Genius

https://www.tampabay.com/sports/high-schools/2019/03/13/img-academy-susp...

This is the story I'm surprised hasn't popped up on more college sports news cycles. IMG Academy has been putting out elite athletes in almost every sport for years now. The guy taking all the ACT and SAT worked there. I find it impossible he only did it for outside students.

IMG Academy's Mark Riddell said Wednesday he is "profoundly sorry" for his role in a college admissions cheating scandal, and IMG said it has no reason to believe his actions affected its students or staff.

According to federal law enforcement, the Palmetto resident received thousands of dollars to take the SAT and ACT for high school students.

Some notable IMG grads currently playing NCAA sports:
Kellen Mond Texas A&M
Shea Patterson Michigan

If you took the 25 highest-rated players from IMG in the class of 2018 and somehow got them into one class, you'd wind up with a 278.42 class score on the 247Sports Composite, per the website's class calculator. In national class rankings, that class would slot in at No. 5, just ahead of Miami and behind Ohio State, Georgia, Texas, and Penn State (and both Ohio State and Texas would slip a spot each, if their classes lost their IMG commits). It would hold in the top 10 through Feb. 7's National Signing Day.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

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Wow.

This is a really HUGE non-story.

Knowing a guy who knows a lot of guys isn't a story at all. If Berman actually has something to report, he should report it.

There's value in providing Babcock an opportunity to refute any improper conclusions drawn between Fox's situation, his relationship with Buzz, and Nolley's ACT score.

Good point. It's just too bad the headline writer didn't get the memo.

I disagree, there is clearly a story there for optics alone that needed to be written. Now one can question how it was written but I don't agree with the idea it shouldn't have been written at all.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

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Yeah, after reading Joe's comment I agree. But in that case the headline sets the wrong tone. I like Teel's article (and headline) better

It's a non-story that a guy charged with fixing standardized test scores was sitting behind our bench at a home game when we have a player ruled ineligible for the season because of a flagged standardized test score?

I couldn't disagree more. It's absolutely worth reporting and pursuing the truth, which is not the same as jumping to the conclusion that Buzz or Nolley or anyone else associated with VT did anything wrong at this point. Whit fielded questions and is investigating it for a reason though.

Joffrey, Cersei, Ilyn Payne, the Hound, Jeff Jagodzinski, Paul Johnson, Pat Narduzzi.

The obvious linkage of two news stories is a story worth reporting. The term "tied" is a little strong, but to deny there is no story is denial based on what you want to believe and not the facts that exist.

Buzz is close to a Fox who is being charged for fixing ACT scores. One of Buzz's recruits has been charged by the NCAA for having an anomalous ACT score. We currently have no idea why Buzz and Fox are close. When Buzz talked about Fox, he provided this anecdote:

Virginia Tech's Buzz Williams is one of many college coaches close to Fox and told the story Wednesday night that when he introduced his son to Fox, his son asked, "'What does he do, is he a coach?'" Williams said, "I'd say no. He's in the middle of everything." He added, "I didn't know he was in the middle of that," referencing the federal trouble.

Buzz is going to be asked directly what his connect to Fox is and why he's so close. He better have a better answer than the deflective "he's in the middle of everything."

Best case scenario, the Nolley incident and Fox's connection with Buzz are mere coincidences. At worst, Buzz utilized Fox to fix Nolley's score. Hopefully this is just a mere coincidence, but there is smoke.

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Best case scenario, the Nolley incident and Fox's connection with Buzz are mere coincidences. At worst, Buzz utilized Fox to fix Nolley's score. Hopefully this is just a mere coincidence, but there is smoke.

Smoke? What smoke?

That Buzz knows well-connected sports guys from Houston? I'd be more surprised if Buzz didn't know him. That the guy went to the ACC tournament a basketball game at VT? Again, that's what well-connected basketball guys do.

Unless and until some information comes out linking the two in a nefarious way, this is a non-story. People need to put their "jump to conclusions" mats back into their boxes.

He wasn't at the Tournament he was at the Miami home game final.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

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OK, definitely worse from an optics perspective. But the guy is present all over the place in college basketball.

The comment still stands. Unless and until there is some actual (and nefarious) connection demonstrated, this is just fodder for the rumor mill.

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
@BuryHokie #ThanksFrank

He referenced in his comments that Fox is a major player in Houston Hoops. One of Buzz big targets for 2020 is LJ Cryer who I believe is part of that AAU program.

Related thought, Whit is putting a lot of faith in Buzz. It's an observation, take it at face value.

Hopefully Buzz takes note of that and sticks around longer

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It's also the right thing to do.

Does Martin Fox represent any guys over 6'8"?

I LOL'ed and almost did a spit take.

Take your upvote, good sir.

Also, I'm going to assume that if Fox is guilty of falsifying test scores, then he knew how to do it without raising any flags by making a recruit's test score too high.

I trust Buzz. He talks the talk and walks the walk. Buzz doesn't have to cheat to get OKG's to sign. And if it turns out that he lied to Whit and hid anything to try and protect Nolley, then Buzz would go down as one of the biggest hypocrites. Like I said though, no way do I believe it. I 100% believe that Buzz has the best intentions to do right by his players and staff and himself. He is not a cut corners kind of guy.

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Some of you guys are paranoid AF. Virginia Tech has not even been named in any kind of wrongdoing whatsoever to this point. Multiple other universities have been named. Not only have we not been proven to have done anything wrong, but there aren't even allegations against us at this time. This Fox guy knows everyone. VT was only used in the Yahoo article to showcase that. Buzz's quote of "he's in the middle of everything" fit in perfectly with how the article was written.

Disappointing that some are doubting Buzz's character after everything he's done.

I haven't seen anyone doubt his character. Maybe I misread.

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You yourself said: "At worst, Buzz utilized Fox to fix Nolley's score."

That's not quite an endorsement of his character

It's also not how this scam works. Coaches aren't paying to get kids in, they are receiving money to accept kids that otherwise couldn't get accepted through general admissions.

Now sure, perhaps a new wrinkle is that coaches were dropping major bucks of their own to pay for Fox to cheat on exams on behalf of star players they want but I haven't seen any evidence of that. Have I missed that?

Or his parents paid after Buzz directed them to or to introduced Fox to them. Haven't seen that scenario yet either.

That's not quite an endorsement of his character

100% true. I did not endorse his character in a positive or negative light. Facts stated with two ends of possibility. If I were to put percentage of likelihood based on my perception of Buzzes character, it would be 99.5% likely that it's mere coincidences, 0.5% it's somewhere in the middle, and one millionth of a percent that Buzz fixed that test.

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Instead of replying to multiple people I'm going to summarize my point and give a reply about optics.

Again....

A sum total of zero schools have been directly tied into this scandal. It's about individuals thus far. Yes some people that went to D1 schools did illegal things, and some coaches took bribes but no one is calling for a boycott of USC, UCLA, etc thus far. They are shaming, and indicting, those involved in the actual cheating scam. So even if Fox had a hand in Nolley's situation then at best it's a story about a kid cheating to come to VT. At worst Buzz and Whit knew about it (which I find doubtful). And definitely all of these academic institutions and their sports programs will continue after the dust settles.

Is it a story worth reporting. Sure, but the article and title are a tad hyperbolic and superficial.

Is it a story that's going to have staying power. Nope. Not unless hard evidence comes out and then unless VT is directly involved it's about the individual.

I deal with A LOT of people that are "In the middle of everything". They just know people. And to be perfectly honest, they can be useful because they can open doors to meetings that you want/need faster than others. But there will be those that get sucked in to their schemes of illegality and others that will understand the "game" and know how to dangle the carrot in front of these people to get the results they want without crossing the line.

Buzz knowing Fox may lessen your opinion of Buzz but it shouldn't. There are leeches in every industry. It's just a real world fact. Knowing how to identify and handle them is part of the job.