New York (AFP) – Four top US university basketball coaches and an Adidas executive were charged with corruption and fraud Tuesday in a sprawling scandal over player recruitment payoffs and athletic gear sponsorship bribes.
Federal justice officials in New York unveiled felony charges against a total of 10 people in the case that lays bare the seedy underside of the multi-billion-dollar business of high school and college basketball in the United States.
University of Arizona’s Emmanuel Richardson, Auburn University’s Chuck Person, Lamont Evans of Oklahoma State and Tony Bland of University of Southern California were the coaches named in indictments after a two-year FBI investigation.
Also named was James Gatto, Adidas’s director of global sports marketing for basketball. The others included prominent agents and financial advisors in the business.
“The investigation has revealed multiple instances of bribes paid by athlete advisors, including financial advisors and business managers, as well as high-level apparel company employees, and facilitated by coaches employed by NCAA Division I universities,” said one of three indictments released by the Justice Department.
The bribes were paid to high school and college basketball players and their families to commit to playing at specific universities and also to sign on to specific financial advisors once they move to the NBA league after university.
In one case Gatto and others working with him were accused of paying $100,000 to the family of a high school player in order to agree to join the team of a university in the NCAA’s top-flight Division I.
Another high school player was allegedly promised $150,000 to commit to retaining a certain agent once he moved to the professional level.
The athletes involved in the scandal were not identified. But the information in the indictments appeared to point to a player for Louisville, a perennial college basketball power already in trouble for providing prostitutes to players.