By James Crepea

The Oregonian

EUGENE — In his first remarks since accusations of Oregon offering an “astronomical” amount of money in its recruitment of Brian Bowen Jr., Ducks men’s basketball coach Dana Altman denied the claims made in the federal case in Manhattan this week.

“The claims that have been focused at our program are all false,” Altman said Friday. “We do not pay players. We never have. We never will.”

Altman also denied any knowledge of anyone at Nike or any booster paying or offering to pay players. He said he was not aware such an accusation, which was repeated on a recording played in court between co-defendants Merl Code and Christian Dawkins when they discussed Bowen Jr.’s options, was going to be made and does not have any concerns about more things arising about the program during the case.

During testimony on Thursday, Bowen Sr. spoke of financial offers made by several colleges recruiting his son. But when asked by federal prosecutors about Dawkins bringing him details of an offer from Oregon, Bowen Sr. said, “I don’t recall that.”

Altman, who is entering his ninth season as Oregon’s coach, thanked University of Oregon president Michael Schill and athletic director Rob Mullens for their support this week after allegations of the offered payment were made by the attorney of Adidas executive James Gatto.

As to the allegation that former Ducks forward Troy Brown Jr. was given tickets to a Floyd Mayweather boxing match by Dawkins, Altman said he did not know if the university or Oregon’s compliance department had reached out to Brown, now with the NBA’s Washington Wizards.

During Altman’s tenure at Oregon, five of his first six recruiting classes ranked among the top 25. Following five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, including an Elite Eight in 2015-16 and Final Four in 2016-17, Oregon’s 2017 recruiting class was ranked No. 13 in the 247Sports Composite and last year’s class, headlined by five-star prospects Bol Bol and Louis King, was ranked No. 3.

By comparison, Oregon’s last eight recruiting classes under Ernie Kent ranked in the top 25 four times, with one top-10 class (No. 6 in 2004).

“To get our program started we took a lot of transfers. We took a lot of junior college players,” Altman said. “We got very fortunate with a class in Dillon Brooks, Casey Benson, Jordan Bell, Chris Boucher, all guys that weren’t on the radar. They came in and took us to an Elite Eight and Final Four. Those kind of winning seasons, we hoped, would lead to recruiting success and we feel they have. We’ve gotten good players, but we’ve always had good players. Whether the press or the recruiting services rank them as good players, that’s their decision, but we’ve always had good players.”

Altman, who was on the road recruiting when Gatto’s lawyer made the accusation against Oregon on Tuesday, expressed confidence in his staff of Tony Stubblefield, Kevin McKenna and Mike Mennenga. He said the reaction on the recruiting trail has not been adversely affected by the development in the federal court case.

“The recruits have been great. The people who have considered us are still considering us,” Altman said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do to try to tie up the class, but we’ve had a great response. We’ve got a lot of good things going here: We play in a good league, play a good style, we’ve got a lot of exposure. It’s a great place to go to school. I think that’s why 25,000 students go here.

“We’ll keep selling the good things that we have here and hope that we find the right group of young men that want to come play for the University of Oregon.”