The FBI and Justice Department have launched a massive crackdown on what they have described as the ‘dark underbelly’ of college basketball after 10 people – including four assistant coaches – were arrested as part of a widespread investigation into systemic bribery and corruption involving several schools.
According to acting U.S. attorney in Manhattan Joon H. Kim. H, the investigation was launched in 2015 and focuses on ‘the criminal influence of money on coaches and student-athletes who participate in intercollegiate basketball governed by the N.C.A.A.’
No schools have been charged with any wrongdoing, but the University of Louisville announced it ‘received notice that it is included in a federal investigation involving criminal activity related to men’s basketball recruiting.’
‘We have your playbook,’ New York FBI Assistant Director in Charge William Sweeney said during a Manhattan news conference on Tuesday. ‘Our investigation is ongoing and we are conducting additional interviews as we speak.’
Specifically, two schemes were investigated: one in which recruits and their families were paid to go to particular universities and another in which player advisors were paid to persuade those players to sign with certain managers, agents, and financial advisors.
In a statement, NCAA president Mark Emmert said the organization has ‘no tolerance whatsoever’ for the behavior described in the court documents, calling the allegations ‘deeply disturbing.’
‘Coaches hold a unique position of trust with student-athletes and their families and these bribery allegations, if true, suggest an extraordinary and despicable breach of that trust,’ Emmert continued. ‘We learned of these charges this morning and of course will support the ongoing criminal federal investigation.’
Oklahoma State’s Lamont Evans, Emanuel Richardson of Arizona, Tony Bland of USC, and Auburn University’s Chuck Person – a former NBA player and 1987 Rookie of the Year – are the four coaches charged in the corruption scheme, according to court documents.
Person has been suspended by Auburn, the school announced Tuesday.
‘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 advisors circling blue-chip prospects like coyotes, and employees of a global sportswear company funneling cash to families of high school recruits,’ Joon H. Kim. H said.
‘For the ten charged men, the madness of college basketball went well beyond the Big Dance in March,’ he continued. ‘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 filing claims that the investigation revealed ‘numerous instances’ of athlete advisors bribing assistant coaches and student athletes at top basketball schools in order to persuade those players to sign with various agents after turning professional. Top high school recruits and their families were also bribed so as to push them towards particular schools, although the filing does not name any university specifically.
According to those documents, Evans, Richardson, and Bland received payments in ‘excess of $10,000 under a Federal program involving a grant, contract, subsidy, loan, guarantee, insurance and other form of Federal Assistance.’
In all, 10 people were charged in New York City federal court, including managers, financial advisors, and sportswear company representatives.
Adidas global sports marketing director Jim Gatto was also named as a defendant, and according to the allegations, he conspired with coaches to pay recruits to play at Adidas-sponsored schools. Gatto and four others were charged with ‘making and concealing bribe payments’ to students and their families.
Adidas was not named specifically in the filing, but was instead referred to as ‘Company-1.’
Gatto and his fellow defendants are accused of funneling $100,000 to the family of a recruit in order to persuade that player to attend a school in Kentucky. That school was not named, but Louisville did sign a $160 million deal with Adidas in August.
No player is named in the court documents. However, according to multiple reports, that recruit may have been five-star prospect Brian Bowen, an All-American from Indiana who chose Louisville over other national powerhouse programs such as Michigan State, Arizona, UCLA, and Oregon.
Thus far, no coach at the University of Louisville has been charged or even named in the court documents.
‘While we are just learning about this information,’ read Louisville’s statement, ‘this is a serious concern that goes to the heart of our athletic department and the university. UofL is committed to ethical behavior and adherence to NCAA rules; any violations will not be tolerated. We will cooperate fully with any law enforcement or NCAA investigation into the matter.’