The federal college basketball corruption trial got off to an explosive start on Tuesday, as a defense attorney reportedly acknowledged an Adidas executive made numerous payments to players and recruits, all in violation of NCAA rules.
FILE PHOTO: James Gatto, Adidas director of global sports marketing, exits the Manhattan Federal Courthouse, following an appearance for bribery and fraud charges in connection with college basketball recruiting, in New York, U.S., October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo
Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel reported Tuesday that attorney Casey Donnelly said in her opening statement that her client, Jim Gatto, acknowledged committing numerous NCAA violations. Specifically, Gatto admits to:
—Agreeing to send $100,000 to the family of top 2017 recruit Brian Bowen to exchange for Bowen enrolling in Louisville.
—Paying $40,000 to the family of Dennis Smith Jr. while Smith was playing at North Carolina State. (He is now with the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA.)
—Paying $20,000 to recruit Silvio De Sousa, who attends Kansas. Adidas sponsors Kansas.
According to the report, Gatto only payed De Sousa after “Under Armour had paid for De Sousa to the University of Maryland.” Though Donnelly did not state who specifically made the request, she claimed someone asked Gatto to match Under Armour’s offer so that De Sousa would enroll at Kansas.
De Sousa is still at Kansas, and is entering his sophomore season.
Donnelly also alleged the existence of a bidding war to land Bowen, who now plays professionally in Australia.
“Oregon, a Nike school, offered an astronomical amount of money if he’d go to Oregon,” Donnelly reportedly said, adding that Louisville wanted to offer Bowen the money in an effort to “level the playing field” in his recruitment.
A third player, North Carolina freshman Nassir Little, was also part of a bidding war, per Donnelly.
“The University of Arizona was going to pay, or offered to pay, $150,000 for Nassir Little to go to Arizona,” Wetzel reported her as saying. She added that Gatto was then involved in a discussion about matching that payment for Little to go to Miami.
Again, she did not offer names of people allegedly making these requests.
Gatto, fellow Adidas employee Merl Code and business manager Christian Dawkins are each charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud involving the recruitment of Bowen. Gatto also faces another wire-fraud charge for the Kansas dealings.
At the heart of the trial, the government contends the three defendants defrauded multiple universities with the payments to the recruits, while Donnelly alleges Gatto was helping the schools to bring in money which would drive revenue — and doing so at the request of the schools.
“Jim Gatto broke NCAA rules,” Donnelly said. “NCAA rules are not laws.”
Attorneys for Code and Dawkins are expected to make their opening statements Tuesday.
This is the first of three scheduled federal trials pertaining to the college basketball corruption scandal.
—Field Level Media