An FBI investigation that resulted in 10 arrests on Tuesday reveals the “dark underbelly” of college basketball.
Assistant coaches at Arizona, Auburn, USC, and Oklahoma State have been arrested, as well as managers, financial advisors, and an Adidas executive.
One of the most disturbing aspects of the investigation is the degree to which bribes permeate NCAA basketball, from when high schoolers are being recruited to when student athletes are making plans for after college.
In one of the three complaints, Jim Gatto — director of global sports marketing for basketball at Adidas — and four other defendants were accused of bribing high-school athletes to play at universities sponsored by Adidas (referred to as “Company 1” in the case).
The defendants portrayed the bribes as an accepted part of the NCAA, according to an undercover agent pretending to be a financial backer for two defendants’ sports-management business.
“You guys are being introduced to … how stuff happens with kids and getting into particular schools,” one defendant, Adidas-affiliated Merl Code, said, according to the agent.
Code continued: “This is kind of one of those instances where we needed to step and help one of our flagship schools … secure a five-star calibre kid. Obviously that helps, you know, our potential business.”
The other two complaints focus on coaches soliciting and accepting cash bribes in exchange for pressuring student athletes to hire certain business managers and financial advisors. This practice was also portrayed by defendants as part of life for college basketball players moving to the NBA.
“Don’t share with your sisters, don’t share with any of the teammates, that’s very important cause this is a violation … of rules, but this is how the NBA players get it done,” Chuck Connors Person, associate head coach at Auburn University, allegedly told a player while pressuring him to hire a business manager who had bribed the coach.
According to the court filings, each of the defendants seemed to be taking measures to cover their paper trail. The undercover agent said that former sports agent Christian Dawkins bluntly explained the benefits of paying bribes to Lamont Evans, associate head coach of Oklahoma State’s basketball team, to other defendants.
“Get in bed with someone like [Evans] now so you got complete access to a kid … because if the coach says nobody can come around — can’t nobody f—ing come around,” Dawkins said, according to the complaint.
Joon H. Kim, acting US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, called the investigation a look into the “dark underbelly of college basketball.”
“For the ten charged men, the madness of college basketball went well beyond the Big Dance in March,” Kim said in a press conference on Tuesday. “Month after month, the defendants allegedly exploited the hoop dreams of student-athletes around the country, treating them as little more than opportunities to enrich themselves through bribery and fraud schemes.”
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