Source: No NCAA plans for fraud inquiry

Updated: July 21, 2011, 12:21 AM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

The NCAA has no intention at present of opening a formal probe into whether a number of high-profile basketball and football coaches and other NCAA officials were defrauded by Houston financial planner and AAU basketball operator David Salinas, a source familiar with the matter told ESPN.com.

Salinas, 60, who was discovered dead Sunday after committing suicide at his Friendswood, Texas home was the apparent target of a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission probe into whether he orchestrated a multi-million dollar fraud scheme to swindle investors. Sources say Salinas had a wide net of clients, from basketball and football coaches to university endowments to churches in the Houston-area and was heavily involved with the University of Houston and Rice University.

A high-ranking source with direct knowledge of the NCAA's interest in the case told ESPN.com that the coaches invested money in the alleged scheme but that it isn't an NCAA issue and concluded no rules violations occurred.

This wasn't a Ponzi scheme. This was investing stocks and bonds and the question is where are the bonds?

-- ESPN.com source on Salinas' alleged
investment scam that took in millions

Multiple coaches told ESPN.com on condition of anonymity that they have been going through past investment statements over the past few days to see how much money was invested with Salinas. A number of coaches say they were bilked out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, with a select few swallowing millions in losses.

Texas Tech coach Billy Gillispie, Baylor's Scott Drew, former Arizona coach Lute Olson, Nebraska coach Doc Sadler, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi coach Willis Wilson, Gonzaga coach Mark Few and Gonzaga assistant and former Utah coach Ray Giacoletti are among the NCAA coaches who lost money by investing in Salinas' alleged fraud scheme. A number of other coaches were also investing with Salinas, but their names have not yet been revealed.

Many of these coaches have spent the five-day break during the NCAA's July evaluation period meeting with their respective lawyers to explore possible legal recourse.

"(Salinas' death) is something that none of his friends could have expected," Olson said. "Yes, I've invested with David and he's been a friend for a while, but I did not invest money until after I had retired from coaching."

News of the fraud-scheme losses was first reported by CBSSports.com over the weekend.

Several coaches told ESPN.com the issue for them are lost corporate bonds that they are trying to recover. They were told by officials that they would receive the money invested in the stock market through Select Asset Management, which Salinas owned, but the money lost in question was invested in corporate bonds from companies such as IBM, Exxon, Wells Fargo, John Deere and Caterpillar, as well as a number of other bonds.

At least one coach told ESPN.com that the returns averaged from seven to 10 percent, but that on the monthly statements there were never any red flags that would have warned investors of illicit activities. Another coach told ESPN.com that the investments looked legitimate with the type of bonds Salinas was investing and that the statements all were "normal."

"He was someone who you built a relationship with, who you trusted with your money," said one coach. "Our stock and loan portfolios all looked fine. But David handled the bonds."

According to a source with direct knowledge of the situation, the issue for the clients who lost money is the whereabouts of the bond investments. The SEC's red flag when investigating Salinas was that he couldn't produce documentation to prove the existence of the bonds detailed on investors' statements.

Said the source, "This wasn't a Ponzi scheme. This was investing stocks and bonds and the question is where are the bonds?"

The source said Salinas' list of coaches who invested with him is "everywhere, all across the country, from the Midwest to beyond. There is old Houston oil money, church money, it goes coast to coast in all walks of life. His clients had tremendous diversity."

"There have been millions and millions of dollars being invested and to my knowledge no one paid for a player,'' said the source, adding that over the past five years Salinas was not actively engaged in basketball recruiting. "It was everyone investing.''

Gonzaga's Giacoletti issued a statement about the death of Salinas to the Spokesman Review of Spokane saying: "Obviously this is a tragic event. I've known David and his family and invested with him for the past 22 years. My heart goes out to his family and friends. It is my understanding the matter has been referred to the Securities and Exchange Commission for investigation."

Salinas was introduced to college coaches in 1988 when he befriended the Rice coaching staff of Scott Thompson, Wilson and Grey Giovanine. That staff then in turn introduced Salinas to other coaches and the network began. The source said Salinas helped with fundraising initiatives and other finances for Rice and would council coaches on contracts and how to handle their personal investments.

Salinas started an AAU program called Houston Select in 1992, largely for his son Chris, according to sources.

One assistant coach told ESPN.com that he was approached to invest with Salinas and to move his TIAA-CREF pension fund toward Salinas' investing plans but declined. Another head coach said he knew of Salinas and the investment opportunity but opted not to participate.

Salinas hosted Final Four parties over the years, the most recent of which occurred last April in Houston.

Houston Hoops is the primary AAU program in the city, which was started by Hal Pastner, father of current Memphis coach Josh Pastner. Houston Select didn't deal with as many high-level players. According to ESPN.com's scouting department, the majority of Division I prospects to come through Select weren't household names.

"There was no mastermind plan (of steering players)," said one coach who estimated he may have lost $400,000-plus in connection with Salinas' bond dealings. "He was someone you just trusted with your money -- that's it."

Andy Katz is a senior college basketball writer for ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com