Basketball recruiting scandal results in prison sentences for three; Adidas also being sued

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

The seedy side of college basketball came front and center again on Tuesday (March 5) when three men, formally or informally associated with the world-famous shoe and sports apparel company, Adidas, were sentenced in federal court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan.

They had been found guilty of fraud and wire fraud, and for conspiracy to commit wire fraud by directing illegal payments to families of scholastic recruits for being accepted at Louisville, Kansas and North Carolina State and for continuing a relationship with Adidas if the recruits should later become pros.

This is a result of the same scandal that supposedly was behind Louisville coach Rick Pitino being fired, along with associate head coach Kenny Johnson and assistant coach Jordan Fair. The three who were sentenced today will remain free until their appeals are decided, which could be at least a year.

One of them is James Gatto, who had been the Director of Global Sports Marketing at the world famous sportswear company. He was given nine months in a minimum security prison.

Mel Code, Jr., a former point guard at Clemson from 1993 to 1997, was a consultant for Adidas, and before that the director of the youth basketball program at Nike, according to the complaint. He, along, with Christian Dawkins, an “aspiring” player agent who was recently let go by the sports agency ASM Sports (per USA Today), were given six months terms.

Gatto, Code, and Dawkins had been found guilty in October after a three-week jury trial in Manhattan’s Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse.

They were convicted in October of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud by arranging for cash and other gifts to be provided to the families of pro prospects to steer them to Adidas-sponsored schools, such as North Carolina State, Louisville, and Kansas, which would then give them scholarships.

One of those testifying at the trial was the father of Brian Bowen II, a 5-star recruit who had a seemingly clear path to the NBA. Not so, however, when it was learned that his father was to be paid $100,000 to arrange for his son to attend Louisville. The judge recounted how the father cried while testifying, claiming that the experience wrecked his son’s life. He never did play college ball and now plays in Australia.

Code and Dawkins are scheduled to undergo another trial in April on additional charges that they bribed the assistant coaches at Arizona, Oklahoma State and (again) Southern California. Three of the assistant coaches have already made plea deals with the government, ostensibly for their willingness to testify. They are Tony Bland (Univ. of Southern California), Emanuel ”Book” Richardson (Univ. of Arizona), and Lamont Evans (Oklahoma State Univ). Meanwhile, Chuck Person, a former assistant coach at Auburn, is scheduled for a separate trial in June.

At the time the men were charged, Joon H. Kim, acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a news conference “The picture of college basketball painted by the charges is not a pretty one. Coaches at some of the nation’s top programs taking cash bribes, managers and advisers circling blue-chip prospects like coyotes, and employees of a global sportswear company funneling cash to families of high school recruits.

“For the ten charged men, the madness of college basketball went well beyond the Big Dance in March. Month after month, the defendants exploited the hoop dreams of student-athletes around the country, allegedly treating them as little more than opportunities to enrich themselves through bribery and fraud schemes.”

Perhaps now there is a better understanding of what he meant. At least by Judge Kaplan. For when imposing sentences, the judge said he said wanted to send a ”great big warning light to the basketball world.”

There is a huge question remaining. Will the “basketball world” see the light?

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