Earlier this week, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigations announced the arrest of 10 individuals in connection with allegations of bribery, corruption and fraud in intercollegiate athletics. The arrests – which included that of four Division 1 NCAA men’s basketball coaches – were handed down as a resulted of a two-year joint investigation by the FBI and U.S. Attorney into the illicit influence of money on coaches and student-athlete relationships in the NCAA.
The takedown highlights a problem which has seemingly occurred under the nose of the NCAA for years: the exploitation of future NBA player prospects by their coaches – who happen to be those that have the greatest degree of influence and control over them and their future careers. According to the first of two complaints which were unsealed earlier this week, these coaches took bribes from athlete advisors – including business managers and financial advisors to professional atheletes – in exchange for convincing promising college players “under their control” to retain the services of the bribers. As stated in this complaint, “many…coaches have enormous influence over the student-athletes who play for them, in particular with respect to guiding those student-athletes through the process of selecting agents and other advisors when they prepare to leave college and enter the NBA.” The scheme targeted top high school and college prospects with lucrative contracts on the horizon.
The second complaint alleges that a high-level executive at an athletic apparel company – confirmed by the media to be Adidas – paid bribes to high school prospects and their families for the purpose of inducing them to commit to universities which are sponsored by Adidas as opposed to those that are sponsored by their rivals. In describing the allegations at a press release, Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim stated “the picture of college basketball painted by the charges is not a pretty one…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.”
According to the release, 10 individuals were arrested in total, including four NCAA coaches (University of Arizona, Auburn, the University of Southern California, and Oklahoma State University) and a senior executive at the major athletic company reported to be Adidas. The complaints allege two different types of schemes schemes: one involving college basketball coaches who took cash bribes from athlete business and financial advisors, and a second involving the apparel company which is accused of working with corrupt advisors to funnel bribes to high school players to secure their commitments to universities (believed to be Louisville and University of Miami) sponsored by the apparel company. Each of the participants are accused of taking steps to conceal the illegal payments which included funneling them to athletes through surrogates and making misrepresentations to the relevant universities regarding in violation of NCAA reporting rules. The result of the defendants’ conduct is alleged to have operated as a fraud on each university, which recevies federal funding in excess of $10,000 per year.
The four coaches are Chuck Connors Person (53) , Lamont Evans (40), Emanuel Richardson (44) and Anthony Bland (37), each of whom are charged with Bribery conspiracy, Solicitation of bribes, Honest services fraud conspiracy, Honest services fraud, Wire fraud conspiracy, and Travel Act conspiracy. Each NCAA coach faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 80 years. The other defendants include three athlete advisors – Christian Dawkins (24), Munish Sood (45) and Rashan Michel (43), who face varying maximum sentences ranging from 80 to 200 years in prison, and apparel company executive/affiliates James Gatto (47), Merl Code (43) and Jonathan Brad Augustine (32) who each face 80 years in prison.