Damaging Video Recording Played in Second NCAA Basketball Corruption Trial
On April 24, 2019, a video recording of Christian Dawkins endorsing his connections to top NCAA basketball coaches, including the University of Arizona’s Sean Miller, was played in front of the jury in the second trial over NCAA basketball corruption. As we have previously reported, the trial is essentially a spin-off of a major NCAA corruption scandal.
In October 2019, a Manhattan federal jury convicted former Adidas executive James Gatto, business manager and aspiring sports agent Dawkins, and former Adidas consultant Merl Code of fraud charges arising out of a college basketball pay-for-play scandal. Throughout the course of trial, several NCAA coaches’ names emerged, including Miller. The current trial surrounds Dawkins and Code’s scheme to bribe numerous NCAA coaches.
The recording was of a June 6, 2017 meeting that took place on a yacht docked in Manhattan, where Dawkins met with Marty Blazer, a former financial adviser, Munish Sood, Dawkins’ business partner, and, unbeknownst to Dawkins, two undercover FBI agents posing as potential investors in Dawkins and Sood’s new athlete financial services agency.
At one point in the conversation, Dawkins referenced Deandre Ayton, who at that time was an incoming University of Arizona basketball player. Dawkins recalled that Coach Miller told him, “I’m taking care of everything myself. I wanna bring you in. I’ll turn everything over to you.” The recording was played while Blazer was on the stand being questioned by federal prosecutors. According to Blazer, “taking care” meant payments for Ayton.
Later in the recording, Dawkins says, “Sean Miller has to know everything that’s going on. I can call Sean and have a conversation … like this is what is needing to be done … [Miller is] talking on the phone about stuff he shouldn’t be talking on the phone about.” Dawkins also mentioned that Arizona assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson “was worth paying $4,000 a month” because Arizona would have top-10 NBA picks every year. Richardson has already pleaded guilty to accepting $20,000 in bribes and is awaiting sentencing.
Additional testimony painted the picture of Dawkins’ scheme to influence college coaches and gain access to top-level NCAA talent before the players knew their true worth. Prosecutors showed a screenshot of a text message where Dawkins lists coaches he planned to target. At the top, the text message said, “[t]hese are my main guys.” The list included Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, LSU’s Wade, UNLV’s Marvin Menzies, Louisville’s Rick Pitino, North Carolina State’s Kevin Keatts, and Arizona’s Miller. In addition, some schools listed as targets included Alabama, Arizona State, Cleveland State, Creighton, DePaul, Miami, Michigan, Oregon, Texas, Texas A&M, and USC.
Dawkins and Code’s attorneys said that Dawkins and Code were in fact opposed to paying coaches, saying it was a “waste of money,” but the undercover FBI agents were the ones who insisted and were pushing that plan.