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A new federal case exposes how big-money brands have corrupted US college sports

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
Former NBA star Chuck Person (center) is one of the assistant coaches named in the federal complaint.
Published This article is more than 2 years old.

A two-year FBI investigation into kickbacks and corruption at the highest levels of US college basketball has borne fruit. Ten people, including ex-National Basketball Association (NBA) star Chuck Person and a senior executive at Adidas, are facing federal charges including bribery and fraud, US federal authorities said this morning.

“The picture painted by the charges brought today is not a pretty one,” Joon H. Kim, acting US attorney of New York’s southern district at a press conference in Manhattan. “Coaches at some of the nation’s top programs soliciting and accepting cash bribes. Managers and financial advisers circling blue-chip prospects like coyotes. And employees of one of the world’s largest sportswear companies secretly funneling cash to the families of high school recruits.” The complaint (pdf) doesn’t name the company, but two of the people charged are Adidas employees.

The case has cast a harsh light on brands’ involvement in college athletics, where students are not paid to play but can generate millions in revenue for schools and brands alike. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)’s total revenue in 2014 was nearly $1 billion.

In one example detailed in the complaint, four of the defendants allegedly worked together to funnel $100,000 from the unnamed large sportswear company to the family of a high-school player. In return the player committed to play at an NCAA Division I university whose athletic programs are sponsored by the company. In another example, the company allegedly paid a high-school player $150,000 in exchange for a commitment to sign with with the company after the player left college basketball and became a professional athlete.

Kim named four assistant coaches who were charged: Person, at Auburn University; Lamont Evans of Oklahoma State University; Emanuel Richardson of Arizona University; and Anthony Bland of the University of Southern California. As listed by USA Today, other people named in the court documents include:

James Gatto (director of global sports marketing at Adidas), Merl Code (recently left Nike for Adidas), Christian Dawkins (NBA agent who was recently fired from ASM Sports for charging approximately $42,000 in Uber charges on a player’s credit card), Jonathan Brad Augustine (president of The League Initiative and program director of the Adidas-sponsored 1 Family AAU program), Munish Sood (a financial adviser), and Rishan Michel (former NBA official who founded Thompson Bespoke Clothing line).

In a statement to the press, Adidas said it was aware that an employee had been arrested and would cooperate fully with authorities “to understand more.”

Read this next: College sports in America are broken. Here’s how to fix them.

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