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.
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.
The investigation, which was been in progress since 2015, has been led by the FBI and the US Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York. Three separate complaints have been filed.
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.
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.
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According to the WSJ, law-enforcement officials are expected to arrest at least a half-dozen people and unseal charges Tuesday "as part of a wide-ranging investigation into alleged bribery and kickback schemes at several of the country’s top-tier college basketball programs, people familiar with the matter said."
The investigation, which is being led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office, has shed light on the highly competitive recruiting pipeline that brings elite high-school basketball players through Division I college programs and into the professional leagues, and the role played by assistant coaches in that process, WSJ sources said.
The multi-million dollar battle for top-tier college basketball teams is hard fought amongst sportswear giants. The visibility of being worn by a certain team or high-profile player is a valuable marketing opportunity for apparel companies, despite the fact that NCAA players cannot be paid to endorse brands.
In the 2016 NCAA men's basketball tournament, Nike was the clear leader, providing uniforms for 41 entrants, the Baltimore Sun reported. Adidas provided outfits for 14 teams, Under Armour outfitted 10 teams, and Russell Athletic outfitted three.
Under Armour has made major investments in college basketball in recent years. In 2016, the company made a $280 million agreement to replace Adidas as the UCLA men's basketball team's shoe and apparel sponsor for the next 15 years. Under Armour has also cut deals in recent deals with teams including Notre Dame, Auburn, and Wisconsin.
A live feed of the FBI press conference is below: