Former Creighton assistant coach Preston Murphy was hit with a two-year show-cause penalty for accepting improper payments, a Level I-aggravated violation, uncovered during the FBI investigation that rocked college basketball, the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions announced on Tuesday.
During the bribery investigation that led to the arrests of four Division I assistant coaches, a federal indictment in March 2019 accused Murphy of accepting a $6,000 payment from an undercover FBI agent during a meeting with Christian Dawkins, his friend and one of the people at the center of the FBI’s investigation, during a July 2017 meeting in a Las Vegas hotel room, agreeing to steer players to Dawkins’ management company. Murphy resigned in November 2019.
Murphy’s lawyers had argued that he returned the money after the meeting.
Per the committee, Murphy lied when he was asked in his school’s internal questionnaire if he’d accepted any payments from an agent or financial adviser or accepted “anything of value” to steer players to an adviser or agent. Murphy checked “no” twice. But he later informed head coach Greg McDermott about the meeting and McDermott then told athletic director Bruce Rasmussen. Per the committee, Rasmussen investigated the incident without informing his compliance department. After Murphy told Rasmussen he had returned the money following the meeting, Rasmussen decided against acting on the information until the arrival of the federal indictment that named the former assistant coach two years ago.
“The violations largely stem from individuals permitting personal relationships to cloud their judgment and influence their decision-making,” the committee said. “Specifically, the assistant coach prioritized loyalty to his friend, the agent associate; and the athletics director looked past alarming conduct based on his trust in the assistant coach.”
While the two-year show cause for Murphy represents the most severe penalty, the school was also hit with a variety of other penalties, including a 1% reduction in the men’s basketball budget and two years of probation. Some of the penalties, such as the loss of one scholarship for the next two years, were self-imposed by the school.
Rasmussen incurred a “Level II-mitigated” penalty for his handling of the investigation.
Creighton is just the latest school to be served with penalties from the NCAA stemming from allegations first laid out in a federal criminal case that resulted in the convictions of 10 men, including four former assistant basketball coaches.
Murphy wasn’t among the coaches facing federal charges, but his relationship with defendant Dawkins, an aspiring sports agent, played a role in the April 2019 trial involving Dawkins and former Adidas consultant Merl Code. Prosecutors played video of Murphy accepting a $6,000 payment from an undercover FBI agent in a Las Vegas hotel room in a meeting to which Dawkins invited him in July 2017.
Government witness and former financial advisor Marty Blazer — who participated in the FBI investigation — testified that Murphy was one of the coaches that Dawkins was going to pay to gain influence with top players. During the meeting at a posh Las Vegas hotel room, Murphy talked about how he could deliver a top NBA prospect by the name of Marcus Phillips, who was not a real player.
When Murphy resigned two years ago “to pursue other opportunities in basketball,” McDermott released a statement that called him “an excellent coach” and “invaluable member of my staff.”
Tuesday’s decision extends a controversial year for Creighton men’s basketball.
McDermott was suspended by the school in March after telling players to “stay on the plantation” after a loss. He was reinstated in time to coach in the Big East tournament.