Shocking Testimony Heard at NCAA Corruption/Bribery Trial

On October 3, 2018, weeks before the start of the college basketball season, shocking testimony was heard in the NCAA Corruption/Bribery Trial. As we have previously reported, on February 21, 2018, Yahoo Sports reported that financial records, documents, and wiretaps tied to prominent former NBA agent, Andy Miller, and his former associate, Christian Dawkins, provided the prosecution with a detailed window into the ongoing NCAA Corruption and Bribery scandal. The scandal, now case, involves Adidas executive Jim Gatto, Adidas contractor Merl Code, and sports business manager Christian Dawkins. Each stand accused of facilitating six-figure payments to basketball players and their families in exchange for promises that the players would enroll at Adidas sponsored NCAA Division I schools and later would hire Dawkins as an NBA agent.

In the most recent testimony, defense attorneys argued that Dawkins, Code, and Gatto were mere pawns in “Sneaker Wars.” One defense attorney said, “[t]he competition between Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas to recruit the top basketball players can be pretty intense.” The attorneys did not deny that Dawkins, Code, and Gatto agreed to pay student-athletes, but argued that they were doing so to benefit Adidas, the Adidas sponsored schools, and the players’ families. “It’s not a crime to pay somebody in cash,” one attorney said, “[i]t’s not a crime to create a fake invoice. It’s only a crime if you do so with the intent to defraud a specific school.”

Some of the more shocking testimony came in the form of secretly recorded meetings that were played to the jury. During one meeting, Code said, “[w]e all have our own leagues with our own kids and we are trying to keep our kids obviously to see them grow and develop, but hopefully to be able to sign them as they become pros. That’s the ultimate objective. Now, in between that, you’re trying to push these kids to your affiliated schools. For instance, Indiana, Kansas, Arizona State, Miami are Adidas schools. So if I could have the kids in my umbrella at the grassroots level, and I can now funnel these kids to my sponsor schools, I win at the grassroots level. My colleges win. And then, hopefully, I can sign them as pros.” In another secretly recorded meeting, played to the jury, a cooperating witness, Munish Sood, Code, and Dawkins discussed the unregulated nature of their effort to use cash to entice athletes to attend Adidas sponsored schools. At one point, Code said, “I’m surprised there aren’t more murders in our space.” Dawkins replied, “[t]here really should be.”

Prosecutors argued that the payments deprived universities of the right to recruit athletes who were actual amateurs eligible to play NCAA basketball. However, Dawkins, Code, and Gatto maintained that even though they broke NCAA rules, they did not break any federal or state law. Code and Dawkins testified that even when they slipped student-athletes money, they did not compel attendance at Adidas sponsored schools. They testified that there was “no recourse” if a student-athlete took money and later went to a different school.

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