In what is set to be a case that will define college sports for decades to come, the FBI has caught multiple NCAA basketball programs dead to rights in a massive corruption scandal, involving bribes from major athletic brands, such as Adidas, and financial advisors to players’ families.
The NCAA has been battling furiously in recent years to maintain the facade of the “student-athlete,” while it simultaneously lines its coffers with ever-juicier TV contracts at the expense of its Division 1 football and basketball players. Now, its worst nightmare has been realized.
Four coaches were arrested Tuesday as the result of an FBI probe into the criminal influence of money on players and coaches in NCAA basketball. These coaches included Anthony Bland, head coach of the University of Southern California men’s basketball team; Chuck Connors Person, the assistant coach at Auburn University; Lamont Evans, associate head coach and recruiting coordinator for Oklahoma State University’s basketball team; and Emmanuel Richardson, an assistant coach for the University of Arizona.
The men were among 10 people charged in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday. Others included managers, financial advisors, and representatives from Adidas, in what appears to be an extensive network of recruiting fraud that begins with players in high school and takes them all the way to the NBA. Further details were to be provided at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
Jim Gatto, director of global sports marketing for basketball at Adidas, has been named in court papers as among those booked as part of the case in which coaches were bribed to influence players into choosing the various services of those doing the bribing. Assistant coaches and recruiters were given money to then have recruits sign with Adidas and choose certain financial firms for their funds upon entering the NBA.
“Moreover, many such coaches have enormous influence over the student-athletes who play for them, in particular with respect to guiding those student-athletes through the process of selecting agents and other advisers when they prepare to leave college and enter the NBA,” the complaint said.
“The investigation has revealed several instances in which coaches have exercised that influence by steering players and their families to retain particular advisers, not because of the merits of those advisers, but because the coaches were being bribed by the advisers to do so,” court papers confirmed.
The NCAA has itself been trying to keep the issue of recruiting fraud under wraps, in the face of billions of dollars generated by their major basketball and football programs. They’ve cracked down on a slew of programs and players over various recruiting missteps, going as far as to suspend players at the University of Florida for reselling textbooks their scholarships got them for free.
In the hands of the FBI, however, some analysts believe this case could only be the tip of the iceberg in terms of what may be uncovered when other guilty parties start talking.
Huh. All this time I just thought it was coincidence how guys picked colleges sponsored by same shoe brand that sponsored their AAU/HS team.
— Mark Titus (@clubtrillion) September 26, 2017
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