Eight People Indicted in NCAA Bribery Scandal
A series of indictments unsealed on Wednesday, November 8, 2017 reveal more of the iceberg of the dark underbelly of college basketball. The scandal was publicized in September when ten individuals were arrested. The new indictments named Adidas executive Jim Gatto, sports agent Christian Dawkins, Auburn University associate head coach Chuck Person, Oklahoma State University assistant coach Lamont Evans, University of Arizona assistant coach Emanuel Richardson, University of Southern California assistant coach Anthony Bland, former Adidas adviser Merl Code and former NCAA referee Rashan Michel. The University of Louisville had already effectively fired Rick Pitino at the end of September after he was charged in the scandal. Pitino was the nation’s highest paid college basketball coach.
One indictment alleges that Dawkins asked Pitino to call Gatto and ask Adidas to pay out $100,000 to the family of a top basketball recruit, in exchange for the recruit to commit to playing at Louisville, sign with Dawkins as his agent, and sign a deal with Adidas when he entered the NBA. The FBI says phone records show Pitino made three calls to Gatto, but Pitino maintains his innocence and asserts he did not know the recruit’s family had been paid. Pitino provided the results of a polygraph test to support his 53-page defense packet.
Both Person and Michel were charged with six counts related to the investigation unveiled in September. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 80 years in federal prison if they are found guilty. Bland is facing four charges, two fewer than in the original complaint, including conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services wire fraud. Bland’s counsel asserts he is “being scapegoated for all the ills of college basketball – all due to an alleged $13,000 payment. No multimillionaire head coach was charged, or any multibillion-dollar sneaker company after years of investigation. Regardless, Tony committed no crime and we are confident a jury will agree that this case is prosecutorial overreaching at its worst.”
NCAA President Mark Emmert spoke to the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics at the end of October and commented on the scandal, asserting the NCAA needed fundamental internal change and saying “[w]hether it’s the tip of the iceberg or whether it’s the whole iceberg doesn’t really matter. It’s disgusting as it is, and we’ve got to recognize that we own that.”