Federal prosecutors handed down a new indictment Tuesday further detailing how an Adidas executive arranged to pay star basketball players to persuade them to attend universities sponsored by the apparel giant.
The former Adidas executive Jim Gatto, along with others, worked to funnel money to the father of a burgeoning NBA star whose description matches that of Dennis Smith Jr. to attend North Carolina State, prosecutors said, though Smith was not named.
They did the same with the mother of a star player who had committed to Kansas and the legal guardian of another Kansas player who had originally taken illicit money to attend a school sponsored by an Adidas rival or to play for a different team sponsored by an Adidas rival, prosecutors said.
An Adidas consultant, referred to in the indictment as “CC-3,” is said to have played a crucial role in both the North Carolina State and Kansas schemes. CC-3 is T.J. Gassnola, according to two people familiar with the investigation who were not authorized to speak publicly. Gassnola had run an Adidas-sponsored youth basketball team in Massachusetts.
The corruption cases’ central theory, which several defendants’ lawyers have challenged, is that the under-the-table payments to players defrauded the universities for which they played, because they exposed those institutions to NCAA sanctions and other potential harms.
Gatto has pleaded not guilty, as have the two other defendants in his case: a former Adidas adviser named Merl Code and an aspiring agent named Christian Dawkins. A trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 1.
Lawyers for Gatto and Gassnola did not return requests for comment Tuesday, nor did North Carolina State. Louisville and Miami have pledged to cooperate with any investigations.
Joe Monaco, a spokesman for the University of Kansas, said in a statement: “Earlier today, we learned that the University of Kansas is named as a victim in a federal indictment. The indictment does not suggest any wrongdoing by the university, its coaches or its staff. We will cooperate fully with investigators in this matter.”
Combined with other unrelated scandals, Louisville’s inclusion in a criminal complaint in September led to the ousters of the Cardinals’ longtime head coach, Rick Pitino, a member of the Hall of Fame, and its athletic director, Tom Jurich.
But when it comes to college basketball, the biggest fish in the Adidas pond is Kansas, the consummate blueblood. The Jayhawks’ head coach, Bill Self, just completed his 15th season, leading them to the Final Four in the men’s NCAA Tournament. He is also in the Hall of Fame, and is under contract through the 2021-22 season.
Descriptions of the players newly identified in the new indictment match those of three top players: Smith, who played one season for North Carolina State before being drafted ninth overall by the Dallas Mavericks last year; Billy Preston, who committed to Kansas but never played because the school and the NCAA were investigating him; and Silvio De Sousa, who just completed his freshman season at Kansas. The two sources familiar with the investigation confirmed that the second player was Preston.
According to the indictment, an NC State coach informed Gassnola that the first player was wavering from his verbal commitment to the Wolfpack during the fall of his senior year of high school. In response, prosecutors said, Gassnola gave $40,000 to the coach, who implied the money would go to the player’s father, while Gatto used invoices that were ostensibly for other expenses to reimburse Gassnola.
Smith appears in documents that were published in February by Yahoo Sports, and which indicate that Dawkins had courted him when he worked for a sports agency whose offices have been raided by the FBI.
The mother of the second player, Preston, received at least $90,000 from Adidas via an AAU team she ran, prosecutors said, with Gatto generating phony invoices for things such as a “Basketball Team Tournaments Fee” to justify the expenditures. The cash transfers included a $30,000 handover in a New York City hotel room, prosecutors said. All in all, Adidas paid more than $200,000 to the AAU team, though some of this was intended for the mother, they said.
A third player, whose description matches De Sousa, had committed to a team sponsored by a rival apparel company, prosecutors said, but preferred to attend Kansas. To get out of that commitment, De Sousa’s guardian said, he would need $40,000 to repay money he had received in exchange for making that initial commitment, and the adviser and Gatto agreed to reimburse him, prosecutors said.
De Sousa had been considered likely to attend Maryland, which is sponsored by Under Armour, before committing to Kansas. Maryland did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The superseding indictment includes allegations from the original indictment from November concerning Louisville and Miami. Gatto, among others, sought to funnel $100,000 to the family of Brian Bowen, a Louisville signee (though the Bowens only received about $25,000) and $150,000 to a Miami recruit. There was a plan to establish a similar scheme for another Louisville recruit.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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