FBI Investigation Uncovers Bribery, Corruption in NCAA Basketball

The FBI announced that 10 people, including four college basketball assistant coaches, have been arrested for fraud and corruption after a two-year investigation into bribes and other malpractice in college basketball Sept. 26.

The investigation names University of Southern California’s Tony Bland, Arizona University’s Emanuel Richardson, Oklahoma State University’s Lamont Evans and Auburn University’s (Ala.) Chuck Person as perpetrators of fraud and corruption schemes in the U.S. Department of Justice’s press release.

Each of the assistant coaches could face up to 80 years in federal prison for bribery conspiracy, solicitation of bribes, honest services fraud conspiracy, honest service fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and Travel Act conspiracy, according to the DOJ.

On Sept. 27, the University of Louisville (Ky.) announced that then-men’s basketball head coach Rick Pitino and long-time Athletic Director Tom Jurich had been placed on administrative leave for their involvement in the scandal, according to The New York Times. Pitino’s attorney said in a statement that Pitino had “in effect, been fired.”

The FBI also arrested top Adidas employees James Gatto and Merl Code, former NBA agent Christian Dawkins, financial adviser Munish Sood, Jonathan Brad Augustine, director of the Adidas-sponsored One Family AAU program, and Rashan Michel, a former NBA official and founder of Thompson Bespoke Clothing, according to the DOJ.

The FBI began the undercover investigation in 2015, and managed to keep it hidden until the announcement of the arrests, according to the DOJ. Using wiretapping surveillance video and undercover agents, the FBI discovered that assistant coaches had accepted bribes in exchange for pushing athletes towards certain financial advisors and companies, ESPN reported. On the other hand, it also found that top Adidas employees funneled money indirectly to student-athletes’ families to persuade the athletes to attend Adidas-sponsored schools, like Louisville, and sign with Adidas when they reached the professional level, according to ESPN.

Specific allegations include a payment of $100,000 from Adidas to an unknown player’s family to ensure the player went to Louisville, with the permission of then-coach Rick Pitino, according to ESPN.

Other accusations include Auburn Assistant Coach, Chuck Person, accepting bribes of $91,500 to push an athlete toward a specific financial advisor, according to ESPN.  

While these recent developments have tainted the NCAA, the FBI warned this may be far from over.

“We have your playbook,” FBI Assistant Director Bill Sweeney said in a recent interview with ESPN. “Our investigation is ongoing. We are conducting additional interviews as we speak.”

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