FBI probe uncovers massive college basketball scandal snaring big-time programs

Dan Wetzel
Columnist

The worst-kept secret in college basketball is how coaches, sneaker executives, sports agents, travel-team coaches and financial advisers, often through under-the-table payments, steer top high school talent first to NCAA programs and later to apparel brands and professional representation once they enter the NBA.

Tuesday, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York blew this shadowy world open in ways that have never before been seen, indicting 10 men, including active assistant basketball coaches at Arizona, Auburn, Oklahoma State and USC, plus an executive for Adidas, in a widespread case that is sure to rock college basketball to its core.

While only four schools are currently involved, the complaints will provide a treasure map for NCAA investigators as it tells stories of endless payouts and kickbacks in the recruitment of numerous top prospects over the past three years.

And that’s before any of the involved agree to cooperate with authorities.

Among the named defendants include former NBA star Chuck Person, an assistant at Auburn, as well as assistants Lamont Evans of Oklahoma State, Emanuel “Book” Richardson of Arizona and Tony Bland of USC. Adidas executive Jim Gatto is also named, as well as agents and financial planners.

While some other major schools and national championship coaches are not specifically named yet, nearly any college basketball fan can put the dots together on some of the recruiting stories to figure out who is who. The names that are expected to come out will be prominent.

Using a “cooperating witness” who is described as operating an athlete management business (a financial planner who handled the money for pro athletes), the FBI got an undercover agent into hotel rooms, meetings and deals. In 2016, the cooperating witness was accused of committing securities fraud, according to the complaints, and presumably flipped after that. The details are overwhelming.

An FBI sting uncovered illegal activity that led to the indictment of 10 men, including active assistant basketball coaches at Arizona, Auburn, Oklahoma State and USC. (AP)

One case among many in the three complaints, which total nearly 200 pages, states Adidas’ Gatto, financial planner Munish Sood and agent Christian Dawkins “conspired to illicitly funnel approximately $100,000 from company-1 to the family of Player-10, an All-American high school basketball player; to assist one or more coaches at University-6, a school sponsored by Company-1, and to further ensure that Player-6 ultimately retained the services of Dawkins and Sood and signed with Company-1 upon entering the NBA.

“The bribe money was structured in a manner so to conceal it from the NCAA and officials at University-6 by among other things having Company-1 wire money to a third party consultants who them facilitated cash payments to Player-10s family.”

The indictments suggest a mountain of evidence from recordings, written communications, corroborating testimony, financial data footprints and the undercover FBI agent.

The defendants are all legally presumed innocent until proven guilty. None could be immediately reached for comment.

In a statement released Tuesday morning, Adidas said: ““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.”

College basketball has dealt with suspicions of widespread corruption for generations. It’s long operated on a public relations campaign that suggests there are a few bad apples but most schools and recruits are clean.

That will struggle to survive after the federal government got involved in investigating the sport like never before.

The U.S. Attorney has scheduled a noon ET news conference in New York to further address the case. Yahoo Sports will continue to update this developing story.

View the indictments here:

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