Facing allegations of cash payments, Huskies assistant calls them ‘untrue attacks’
A former assistant track coach at Lynnwood High alleges that Tosh Lupoi gave him $4,500 in cash to pay for private tutoring and online classes to help boost the academic standing of a football recruit.
Seattle Times staff reporters
On Thursday morning, like most other mornings, Tosh Lupoi was on the practice field, coaching the Huskies.
By Thursday afternoon, the Washington defensive line coach took to Twitter, releasing a statement about what he said are “untrue attacks” against him.
On Friday, with the NCAA scheduled to be on the UW campus, Lupoi will be the center of an investigation about his alleged recruiting violations.
For Lupoi and the Huskies, the longterm ramifications of the allegations, detailed in a Los Angeles Times report published Wednesday evening, are unclear. Mike Davis, a former assistant track coach at Lynnwood High, alleges that Lupoi gave him $4,500 in cash this year to help pay for private tutoring and online classes to help boost the academic standing of a star Lynnwood recruit.
That recruit, Andrew Basham, had signed a letter of intent with UW in February but never qualified to enroll at UW.
Basham’s mother, Cindy Powers, denied any wrongdoing in a text message to The Seattle Times on Thursday evening.
“We paid for Andrew’s tutoring with our credit card and it had nothing to do with Tosh,” she said.
Basham’s mother declined to answer follow-up questions or say whether her son had been approached by NCAA investigators.
Davis is scheduled to meet with officials from the NCAA, UW and USC on Friday at UW, and he has been asked to bring his bank records.
Basham is still hoping to get into a junior college to play football, Davis said.
“Once Andrew didn’t make it (into UW), they didn’t have any contact with him, and I think that’s just a poor way of doing something,” Davis told The Seattle Times. “They wined and dined him and pumped him up ... when maybe they should’ve said, ‘You’re a great kid and you’re going to be a great football player, but maybe the (UW) is not really for you right now.’”
In May 2012, five months after Lupoi was hired away from California, UW confirmed that Lupoi committed a secondary recruiting violation and was “limited” in his ability to recruit on the road that spring. That violation occurred when Lupoi “publicized the visit of a prospective student-athlete who ultimately did not commit to UW by confirming information about the recruit to members of the DawgPack student section at a men’s basketball game,” according to a UW statement.
The morning after Davis’ allegations surfaced, Lupoi was back on the practice field Thursday with the Huskies as they prepare for the Dec. 27 Fight Hunger Bowl against BYU in San Francisco.
“As of right now, he’s still coaching with us,” UW interim coach Marques Tuiasosopo said Thursday morning. “A lot of things happen. You got to take it in stride. It’ll all come out. Right now my responsibility is to prepare this team on the football field and make sure they’re acting well off the field, and that’s what I’m doing.”
A spokeswoman said the NCAA would not comment on “current, pending or potential investigations.” A UW spokesman said Thursday that the athletic department would have no comment either.
Lupoi has not returned messages seeking comment, but he released a statement via his Twitter account: “Husky Nation Thank you for your amazing support! I love this university and appreciate the great fans. I won’t let these sorts of untrue attacks break my focus! I look forward to an honest & thorough investigation. It hurts to read these sorts of things, despite their suspicious motives, but I have faith in the process.”
During a Feb. 25 meeting at the Ram Restaurant & Brewery at the Northgate Mall, Davis claimed that Lupoi gave him $3,000 in $100 bills, left in a brown paper bag at a booth after Davis went to the restroom. The money, as Davis detailed to the Los Angeles Times and corroborated to The Seattle Times, was to pay for a private sessions with Kaplan, Inc., which provides tutoring for SAT and ACT testing.
“I thought, ‘Maybe they have a fund (at UW), I don’t know,’” Davis told The Seattle Times. “So I set all that help and I’m thinking, ‘Oh, I’m being the good guy and I’m going to help set this up.’ And then after I helped set it up and got paid all the cash, I kind of went, ‘Huh, I’m not going to do this no more.’”
Davis did take part in a second transaction on May 18, when he said Lupoi called him and invited Davis, his wife and Basham to the UW football offices. “Let’s go get a cup of coffee,” Davis said Lupoi told him, as relayed to the Los Angeles Times.
“When I picked it up he kind of smiles,” Davis said. And when Davis got to his car, he opened the lid to the coffee cup and found $1,500 in cash to repay for online classes Basham had signed up for.
Davis said Basham’s father, Ron Basham, had paid for those classes with a credit card, and Davis brought the coffee cup with the cash to Ron Basham.
“I kind of got caught in the middle of that,” Davis told The Seattle Times. “His dad called me to get the money, and then I had to talk to Tosh to get the money so I was kind of the middle guy.”
Any potential violations found against Lupoi or UW would be processed under the NCAA’s new four-tier enforcement program, billed as a “tougher, more efficient” system. It was adopted in October 2012 and varies from the most severe Level 1 penalty that “undermine or threaten the integrity of the NCAA,” to the minor infractions of “Level IV.”
Former UW coach Steve Sarkisian, hired as the new coach at USC on Dec. 2, could potentially face sanctions from the NCAA if violations are found. Sarkisian had wanted Lupoi to follow him to USC, but that seems unlikely now.