A wide array of high-profile arrests have been made in a massive scandal that is currently rocking the NCAA recruitment program for high school and college basketball, leading many to wonder just how pervasive this is in the bigger leagues. The sports apparel companies involved in this investigation are big names and this is most likely just the tip of the iceberg.
In a broad crackdown on college basketball corruption, U.S. prosecutors unveiled charges Tuesday against 10 coaches, managers, financial advisers and representatives of a sportswear company, accusing them of bribery, fraud and corruption in recruitment in college basketball. Additionally, a key part of the case includes allegations that an executive at a global apparel company bribed students to attend universities where the company sponsored athletic programs.
The Department of Justice announced Tuesday that college basketball coaches at University of Arizona, Auburn, University of Southern California, and Oklahoma State University had been arrested, as well as managers, financial advisors, and representatives of a major international sportswear company. The defendants include coaches at top U.S. college basketball programs, one agent, one financial adviser and a former referee. The coaches are Lamont Evans, an assistant at Oklahoma State University, Emanuel Richardson, an assistant for the Arizona Wildcats, and Chuck Person, associate head coach at Auburn University.
Is there any wonder that NBA and NFL players are in so much trouble as they enter the big leagues? They are being fed thousands (and at times, hundreds of thousands) of dollars early on when they're still in high school to play for certain teams or attend certain universities where apparel companies have big influence.
For those who don't think this should matter, think about the current flap in the NFL with players “taking the knee.” These players, who are oftentimes earning 100 times the amount of money that people in their former neighborhoods are earning, feel entitled to rant against a country that gave them an opportunity to play a GAME for a very lucrative paycheck, when the systems that got them there, in some cases, is corrupted by corporate greed and bribery! Of course, this matters.
Jim Gatto, director of global sports marketing for basketball at Adidas, was also named as a defendant. According to the complaint, Gatto allegedly conspired with coaches to pay high school athletes to play at universities sponsored by Adidas (or as it is referred to in the complaints, “Company 1”).
According to Business Insider, Gatto and four other defendants have charged with “making and concealing bribe payments” to high school student athletes and/or their families. In one instance, Gatto and the other defendants reportedly funneled $100,000 to the family of a high school basketball player to convince the player to sign with a “public research university” in Kentucky.
In another case, Gatto and other defendants allegedly agreed to make payments up to $150,000 from Adidas to convince the player to join another team sponsored by the apparel company, a private university in Florida, according to filings. The university is not named, but based on information provided is likely University of Miami, which entered into a 12-year partnership with Adidas in 2015.
Three separate complaints have been filed in this case by the FBI and the US Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York for this investigation which has been ongoing since 2015.
Investigators have been looking at whether coaches at these schools have been paid by outside entities—such as financial advisers, agents, and apparel companies—in exchange for pressuring players to associate with those entities, people familiar with the investigation said. Executives at at least one apparel company are expected to be among those arrested, a person familiar with the matter said.
These were not the only people involved either. This is a huge scandal with the potential to leak out into other sports as well. Both the baseball and football industries are rife with this type of recruitment techniques and this is a warning shot across the bow of those ships.
Other defendants include Jonathan Brad Augustine, president of nonprofit The League Initiative; Merl Code, the head of Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League as of 2013; and Christian Dawkins, a former sports agent who was reportedly fired in May for charging $42,000 in Uber rides on an NBA player’s credit card.
The coaches named as defendants in the cases include Anthony “Tony” Bland, associate head coach at University of Southern California and former assistant coach at San Diego State; Chuck Connors Person, associate head coach at Auburn University; Lamont Evans, associate head coach and recruiting coordinator for Oklahoma State University’s basketball team and former South Carolina assistant coach; and Emmanuel Richardson, an assistant coach for University of Arizona.
The big players in this scandal are the apparel companies and their willing accomplices are the coaches who allow this type of undermining behavior to be permitted, with their assistance. Poor families who suddenly receive an envelope under the table with a couple hundred thousand inside are most likely not going to question the whys and hows. They will simply smile, thank their benefactors, and spend the money without a thought to the consequences on their son or daughter.
Barack Hussein Obama is going to be mighty upset about this come next March when the Madness begins once again, conspicuously absent of some very fine players with great potential who are now unable to play because of a terribly mishandled and criminal behavior by people who should know better.