Adidas Exec Among Those Arrested in Alleged College Basketball Bribery Scandal

NCAA basketball Auburn TJ Dunans Under
Auburn guard TJ Dunans.
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An Adidas executive and four assistant basketball coaches at top-tier universities were among those arrested today on charges of fraud, bribery and corruption following an FBI investigation dating back to 2015.

Coaches named in court documents include Chuck Person (Auburn), Lamont Evans (Oklahoma State), Emanuel “Book” Richardson (Arizona) and Tony Bland (University of Southern California) for allegedly taking thousands of dollars in exchange for getting student athletes to commit to certain schools or use the services of specific sports agents and financial advisers, according to a complaint filed by the FBI.

The U.S. State Attorney’s office said today that Jim Gatto, Adidas’ director of global sports marketing, “working in connection with corrupt advisers, funneled bribe payments to high school-aged players and their families to secure those players’ commitments to attend universities sponsored by Company-1, rather than universities sponsored by rival athletic apparel companies.” (While court documents do not list Adidas specifically, they do list Gatto, who is employed by Adidas.)

“Today, we became aware that federal investigators arrested an Adidas employee. We are learning more about the situation. We’re unaware of any misconduct and will fully cooperate with authorities to understand more,” the brand wrote in a statement emailed to Footwear News today.

Also named in the documents are Merl Code, an Adidas employee; former member of ASM Sports’ management team Christian Dawkins; an AAU team program director, Jonathan Brad Augustine; investment adviser Munish Sood; and Rashan Michel, a former NBA and NCAA official, and founder of Thompson Bespoke Clothing.

The investigation determined that Gatto, Code, Dawkins, Augustine and Sood made bribes to multiple high school players, including one payout of $100,000 for a commitment to play at an Adidas-sponsored school, and another for a $150,000 payout for a high school player to play at an Adidas-sponsored school as well as commit to use Dawkins’ service and sign with Adidas once a pro.

“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,” acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said today. “For the 10 charged men, the madness of college basketball went well beyond the Big Dance in March. Month after month, the defendants allegedly exploited the hoop dreams of student athletes around the country, treating them as little more than opportunities to enrich themselves through bribery and fraud schemes. The defendants’ alleged criminal conduct not only sullied the spirit of amateur athletics, but showed contempt for the thousands of players and coaches who follow the rules, and play the game the right way.”

Although coaches from four schools and Adidas employees were listed in the documents, none of those schools are sponsored by the brand: Auburn is aligned with Under Armour, and Arizona, Oklahoma State and USC are all with Nike.

“Today’s charges detail a corrupt practice in which highly rated high school and college basketball players were steered toward lucrative business deals with agents, advisers and an international athletics apparel company,” FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said. “As alleged, NCAA Division I and AAU coaches created a pay-to-play culture, agreeing to provide access to their most valuable players while also effectively exerting their influence over them.  Today’s arrests should also serve as a warning to those who conduct business this way in the world of college athletics.”