Two Former Adidas Officials and a Business Manager Found Guilty in High-Profile “Pay-for-Play” NCAA Scandal

On October 24, 2018, a Manhattan federal jury convicted three men of fraud charges arising out of a high-profile college basketball pay-for-play scandal.

Per the trial that opened on October 2, 2018, former Adidas executive James Gatto, business manager and aspiring sports agent Christopher Dawkins, and former Adidas consultant Merl Code had previously admitted their conduct ran afoul of NCAA rules, but denied breaking any law and staunchly advocated that they were acting with school’s knowledge and consent. Prosecutors had argued that these secret payments illegally deprived Louisville, North Carolina State University, and the University of Kansas of being able to recruit true amateur athletes.

As a result of the guilty verdict, U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan set the sentencing date for March 5, 2019. Federal sentencing guidelines will determine the sentences, while attorneys involved in the case have noted that all three men may be facing two to four years in federal prison.

While the fallout is becoming clear for Gatto, Dawkins, and Code, this is but the first of three trials – the second and third are slated for February and April, 2018, respectively. In the second trial, brought against former Auburn assistant Chuck Person and former NBA referee Rashan Michel, Person is accused of accepting $91,500 in bribes to persuade Auburn players to sign with certain advisers and agents, as well as buy custom-made suits for draft night from Michel. In the third, three former assistant coaches – Arizona’s Emanuel “Book” Richardson, Oklahoma State’s Lamont Evans, and USC’s Tony Bland – are accused of accepting bribes from Code and Dawkins, who were named as defendants in that case, as well.

It remains to be seen what other dominoes may begin to fall as a result of these lawsuits. Going up the ladder, the next logical rung would potentially be coaches that may have played some hand in this recruitment under the cover of darkness. For instance, one of the many coaches brought up in the trial was LSU’s Will Wade – the FBI monitored a call between Dawkins and Wade, wherein the two discuss the potential recruitment of 2019 recruit Balsa Koprivica.

Similarly, just one day after Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski referred to the ongoing litigation as “a blip,” a recording of the father of star Duke freshman Zion Williamson was introduced into the trial. The recording ultimately revealed that Williamson’s father had asked Kansas assistant coach Kurtis Townsend for money, housing, and a job – three months after this request and to the general public’s surprise, Williamson committed to Duke.

While these examples simply scratch the surface of what was revealed throughout the nearly month-long trial, it remains to be seen how the NCAA will use this newly uncovered info to move forward.

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