Controversial former Louisville player Brandon Bender says he finds himself mixed up in an NCAA investigation in the aftermath of several articles published by ESPN.com and the New York Times.
Bender requested an interview to share his side of the story.
Here is our conversation:
Brandon, if I understand you correctly, the NCAA has opened an investigation?
The NCAA is just doing their job, I guess. They are investigating an idiotic newspaper article...well, articles.
Has the NCAA actually approached you?
No, not yet, but they're coming very soon. I've already been told and I have anxiously been waiting.
How were you notified that the NCAA might want to speak to you?
There is no might to it, they're coming in August. I know for sure because I've been notified.
You were notified by someone at the NCAA?
Yes. I was told I will be meeting with a team from the NCAA in August sometime. I may not even speak to them, though. I feel like there isn't anything to discuss.
When they told me, you know what I said? I said 'good, can't wait to see you guys. Come waste more of your time.'
They are investigating things that are not there. These kids don't come from a silver spoon. None of them have anything new and they're all hungry for an opportunity to get to college...get an education and show themselves. That is it.
Are you aware of what or who the investigation involves?
All the kids and parents from what I've heard. It's mostly directed at the kids and schools, not directly me. They just want to know if anything illegal has been done or any money has passed hands.
Pretty much, they're investigating bogus rumors which I think are funny. They are wasting a lot of time and money.
If there is an institution complaining against the other schools, then maybe they should investigate the school that is complaining because obviously there isn't something right with them.
And it shows you what kind of town certain schools are in...well, a certain school. Some fans can't get over the loss of a quarterback, which is crazy to me.
Do you feel the NCAA is involved directly as a result of the ESPN articles?
Let me tell you this, I know Tom Crean personally and no way in the world would he ever break a rule. He goes right by the book as well as every coach I know. I'm a big fan of Crean because he does things the right way but it was amazing how they tried to turn that article around.
Can you share who the schools are that the NCAA is said to be looking at?
They're looking at all names that came up in those articles from Pat Forde (ESPN) and Pete Thamel (New York Times).
Any name that came up in that, they're investigating, which is so ridiculous. But, I guess they're just doing their jobs. They're like the FBI...relentless.
This time, in this situation, there are no wrong-doings. They're looking at Ken (Caldwell) and I for helping kids get to college, I guess. That is not even the case. Ken and I never pushed any kids anywhere. These kids and their families made their own decisions.
So, pretty much, we're all being investigated because a particular school started crying for no reason.
Which school is that?
I can't say because if I do, the NCAA may investigate that part, as well.
Have you been notified that the NCAA is in Louisville or is that just a rumor?
No they are around the city snooping. They can snoop all they want. They are wasting a lot of their time.
Let's clarify, are you saying they are investigating the University of Louisville or are you saying they are only in town asking questions?
No, they are investigating UCF and IU. They have just been interviewing certain folks in Louisville.
So, you're telling me that the NCAA is investigating UCF and Indiana University?
Yeah, they are.
Basketball, football or both?
Indiana basketball and I think both at UCF.
IU and UCF are the only two schools you've heard at this point that are being looked at?
Yeah. I'm like even UCF? George O'Leary, who I don't know well at all, but I know he runs a clean program and that is a fact. I don't care what people say, he is a well-respected man.
And, take a Donnie Jones, right? He's a high-class coach who is a great man. He is very respected. Can you honestly see him breaking rules? I mean, that would be like a blind man robbing a store for candy...it just can't happen and won't happen.
I'm shocked that they're actually investigating UCF of all places in America. Now, that is pretty funny...as in the NCAA is investigating a school that is in Conference USA. I mean really though? Wow, that shocks the hell out of me.
The reason UCF is being investigated is because they have one of the best campuses in the United States and another school complained because UCF was getting good kids and good players.
I believe both of those guys (O'Leary and Jones) are as straight as a pencil. Have you ever seen their campus? Geez.
North Carolina, UCLA, Duke and Kentucky all sell tradition, coaching and education. UCF sells campus and coaching. Their campus is incredible man. It's like Arizona, USC, UCLA or Florida.
Are there two separate investigations or one big investigation dealing with everything?
Two separate investigations from my understanding. The Indiana thing is regarding the Indiana Elite article.
Can you share what the NCAA told you?
They just said that they will see me next month. They are gathering up all their supposed facts and will talk to me then...and that is fine by me.
Did they say specifically what they are looking at?
No, they never do, but honestly it doesn't matter because I know the truth. They can say what they want to say, but everything is hear say. Until I see some proven facts, it doesn't matter.
Brandon, are you guilty of any wrong-doing involving any of those kids?
Guilty of wrong-doing? Hell no!
Listen, I have not broken any NCAA rules. If a coach has to go to the bathroom, Forde wants to write an article on it.
And as for IU, I'm not involved in that situation. That is a story of reporters looking for something to do in the summer time because they're bored and have nothing to report. Tom Crean is as clean as bleach, believe me.
No coach is going to risk his job for breaking rules. No way, no how. Not the coaches I know. Period.
The next article Thamel and Forde writes...the NCAA will look into that also.
Have you been contacted by Thamel or Forde? Anyone else?
No and those guys better not ever call my phone again. Those two are a major problem. I wouldn't be surprised if they were dating one another by now. They were always lovers it seems like.
You want me to print that?
Yeah, because that is my opinion. Forde has some issues. He always tries to cover stories like he has some breaking news, but he is full of horse manure. And Thamel...when I first saw his pic, I didn't know if he was female or male. I mean, you never know these days. All I know is they better not ever call me.
This is how I see it...ESPN, the New York Times and the NCAA. It's the media spending too much time sensationalizing things. The economy is in terrible shape and the government is about to shut down. There has to be better things to talk about than kids wanting to play basketball or football.
You've got kids out here in the streets of Chicago, or any other big city, lying next to dumpsters. Ken Caldwell happens to live in Chicago and helps kids get a college opportunity by doing things the right way. The NCAA needs more guys like Ken.
Say, for instance, a kid is homeless. Well Ken talks to a school or a prep school and says 'hey this kid is from the streets and wants an opportunity to get to college. Will you help him.' He is just a natural great guy with a big heart to help kids reach their dreams.
Ken has never discussed anything to do with agents to me. As a matter of fact, trust me on this, he hates agents with a passion. He doesn't deal with that mess.
Getting back to the investigations, can you share what you have been told about the IU investigation?
I heard they are investigating Indy Elite for supposedly pushing players to IU.I know for a fact that it's bogus. That program happens to be in Indiana and so is the university. The kids are wanting to go there...what is illegal about that?
Can you share anything about the UCF investigation?
I just hear they are investigating UCF because a school complained after losing certain recruits to them. One school cried about it. I heard it is the same school that complains about Big Blue Nation.
Brandon, you've said a lot. Anything else you'd like to add?
No, just that I'll see the NCAA soon.
Also, the writing is on the wall. The NCAA needs to investigate the people complaining. That is all I'm going to say.