Myron Piggie, KC basketball coach central to 1990s NCAA scandal, headed back to prison

Myron Piggie
Myron Piggie

Myron Piggie, a former coach of high school-aged basketball players in Kansas City who played a central role in a scandal that rocked college sports about 20 years ago, is headed back to prison.

Greg Kays, a federal judge in Kansas City, revoked Piggie’s supervised release involving a separate criminal case in which he pleaded guilty to receiving stolen goods. Kays agreed with prosecutors that Piggie was not making payments on a restitution order from when he received 117 boxes of frozen chicken that had been stolen from a trailer in Arkansas in 2009.

In that case, Piggie avoided prison with an agreement to pay $7,566 in restitution. To date, prosecutors said Piggie still owes $6,931 and hasn’t made a payment since October 2017. As a result, Piggie will spend eight months in prison.

Piggie, during a hearing in federal court on Friday, told Kays he is unable to make payments and pleaded for leniency.

“As I’ve gotten older, times have gotten harder,” Piggie said.

His lawyer, federal public defender Anita Burns, said Piggie is going through a divorce, receives food stamps and has applied for Social Security disability assistance.

“He’s just simply unable to pay,” Burns said.

Kays, while noting that Piggie has been respectful to the court, said Piggie’s compliance with restitution was the only reason he received probation in the theft case.

“It is shocking that he hasn’t paid anything since we last met,” Kays said, adding that Piggie applied for disability after a hearing was called to revisit his restitution.

Piggie was indicted, along with several others, in 2012 for being a part of a scheme where a food trailer was stolen from a cold-storage facility in Rogers, Arkansas. In the trailer was more than $10,000 worth of frozen chicken quarters, a portion of which Piggie received and authorities discovered at his convenience store in east Kansas City.

Piggie at the time had been out of prison for 10 years after serving a 37-month sentence for wire fraud and other charges in connection to a scheme during the 1990s in which he paid elite high school-aged basketball players who were part of his traveling Amateur Athletic Union teams in Kansas City known as the Children’s Mercy Hospital 76ers and later the KC Rebels.

Piggie, according to court documents, received hundreds of thousands of dollars from a sports agent, a Nike representative and others. Piggie, in turn, would clandestinely pay elite players on his AAU teams, including JaRon Rush, Corey Maggette and Korleone Young.

Those players would go on to play at top NCAA universities after pledging to them that they had never received payment to play basketball, thus retaining amateur status.

Piggie had hoped to receive payments from his AAU athletes once they became professional athletes.

The scandal at the time rocked college basketball, which has been scandalized anew with recent criminal cases against Adidas representatives, assistant college basketball coaches and others who similarly funneled money to highly recruited high school stars to help convince them to play for Adidas-sponsored universities.

One Adidas executive, James Gatto, was linked to payments made to families of University of Kansas basketball recruits Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa.

University of Kansas Athletic Director Jeff Long talks about the university's 14-year extension with Adidas, amid the NCAA investigation into college basketball recruiting.

Critics of the NCAA say the scandals are an inevitable outcome of a system where college athletics departments, its administrators and coaches and the NCAA itself realize immense profits and contracts on the backs of players who receive scholarships and modest stipends but no other payment for their performances.

The NCAA, which has historically resisted calls to move away from the amateur athlete system, has reportedly been reconsidering its stance.

Piggie, who is due to surrender to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons on July 10, did not comment as he left the courtroom in Kansas City.

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Steve Vockrodt is an award-winning investigative journalist who has reported in Kansas City since 2005. Areas of reporting interest include business, politics, justice issues and breaking news investigations. Vockrodt grew up in Denver and studied journalism at the University of Kansas.