2017-09-26 12:28:03
N.C.A.A. Coaches and Adidas Official Face Bribery Charges

12:28, September 26 203 0

Ten people involved with the highest echelon of college basketball, including four assistant coaches and a senior executive at Adidas, are facing federal bribery, fraud and other corruption charges, prosecutors in Manhattan announced on Tuesday.

The United States attorney for the Southern District of New York said in a statement that since 2015 the F.B.I. and federal prosecutors have been investigating “the criminal influence of money on coaches and student-athletes who participate in intercollegiate basketball governed by the N.C.A.A.”

The investigation has revealed “numerous instances” of bribes paid by athlete advisers, among others, to assistant coaches and sometimes directly to student-athletes at N.C.A.A. Division I universities, the complaint said. The bribes were designed to get commitments from college stars to work with specific agents and companies after they turned professional, or to convince coveted high schoolers to attend specific universities.

In laying out the charges on Tuesday afternoon, Joon H. Kim, the acting U.S. attorney for the southern district, said, “The picture painted by the charges is not a pretty one.”

Among the people charged was Chuck Person, an assistant coach at Auburn, where he was also a star player. He played for 13 years in the N.B.A., most prominently for the Indiana Pacers. Coaches at Arizona, Oklahoma State and Southern California also were charged.

One of the three indictments charges five people with wire fraud and money laundering in a scheme to pay high school athletes to attend particular universities. Those indicted include James Gatto, identified as the head of global sports marketing, basketball for “Company-1.” Though the company is not named, Mr. Gatto works for Adidas in that role.

The indictment says about $100,000 was paid to the family of “Player-10,” a heavily recruited high school all-American, to steer him to a particular college. It says contemporary news accounts described his college decision, announced this past June, as a surprise. Payments were made to other players’ families as well, the indictment says.

The player and university are not named, but it is identified as being in Kentucky, and details point to the University of Louisville, which has an identical enrollment to University-6. This summer, Louisville signed a 10-year, $160 million apparel contract with Adidas.

Adidas said in a statement: “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.”

Another complaint charges that Mr. Person abused his coaching position to solicit and obtain bribes from a financial adviser and business manager for professional athletes, in return for his agreeing to direct certain of the school’s players to the adviser when they entered the N.B.A.

Mr. Person accepted a total of $91,500 in the case, the complaint says, and passed about $18,500 on to the families of two athletes. The adviser, who is not identified, has been cooperating with the authorities, the complaint says. Mr. Person faces bribery, wire fraud and other charges.

A third indictment charged the other assistant coaches with accepting payments to steer players to specific agents. The coaches named are Lamont Evans, an assistant at Oklahoma State and a former assistant at South Carolina; Emanuel Richardson, an assistant at Arizona; and Tony Bland, an assistant at U.S.C.

Oklahoma State said in a statement: “We were surprised to learn this morning of potential actions against one of our assistant basketball coaches by federal officials. We are reviewing and investigating the allegations. We are cooperating fully with officials.”

U.S.C. said: “We will cooperate fully with the investigation and will assist authorities as needed, and if these allegations are true, will take the needed actions.”

Illegal inducements and benefits to athletes come as no surprise to followers of college sports, and the N.C.A.A. has long struggled to police rules violations at its member universities. Many times, the violations have been exposed in vivid detail: department store discounts for Florida State football players, cash payments to Michigan’s so-called Fab Five basketball teams, tattoos at Ohio State and even strippers provided to Louisville basketball recruits.

Louisville was punished for the stripper scandal in June, when the N.C.A.A. placed Louisville on probation, suspended Coach Rick Pitino for five games and ordered the university to forfeit what could be dozens of games — potentially including the Cardinals’ 2013 national championship. Those sanctions were announced June 15 — less than two weeks, Tuesday’s indictments allege, after the plan to funnel $100,000 to a recruit.

Jim Calhoun, the longtime basketball coach at Connecticut, said: “The shoe companies have always, through grass roots, A.A.U., tried to get the young great players to stay with their sneakers. I remember kids getting swag, trips. But I don’t remember kids getting money.

“I shouldn’t say it’s beyond belief, but to give money is the wrong thing. Stuff like this is obviously disturbing.”

Dave Paulsen, the head coach at George Mason, said on Twitter: “Sickened but, unfortunately, not shocked by these revelations. Horrible stain on our profession.”