On September 26, 2017, the Department of Justice announced fraud and corruption charges had been brought against 10 people in college basketball, including four coaches. The list of coaches arrested and charged with federal crimes includes Oklahoma State’s Lamont Evans, Auburn’s Chuck Person, Arizona’s Emanuel Richardson, and Southern California’s Tony Bland. The head of Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League, Merl Code, as well as Adidas director of global sports Marketing James Gatto have also been charged.
The list of schools is continuing to grow as Louisville, Miami, and Alabama are also reportedly involved. Each of the coaches are charged with solicitation of bribes, honest services fraud conspiracy, bribery conspiracy, honest service fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and Travel Act conspiracy.
The FBI conducted an undercover operation starting in 2015, using wiretaps, surveillance video, undercover agents, and cooperative witnesses. The coaches were caught taking thousands of dollars in bribes to steer college basketball players toward certain financial advisors and sports agents. In the initial press conference, acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Joon H. Kim said, “the picture of college basketball painted by the charges brought today is not a pretty one—coaches at some of the nation’s top programs taking cash bribes, managers and advisors circling blue-chip prospects like coyotes, and employees of a global sportswear company funneling cash to families of high school recruits.”
Kim said upwards of $100,000 in some cases was secretly paid to top recruits. This clearly violates NCAA rules and led corruption and fraud when the apparel companies and coaches made the payments secretly and to evade NCAA rules. If a company such as Adidas or Nike decided to pay an 18-year old high school graduate to sign with them, it would not be illegal, however it would disqualify them from competing in the NCAA. In this case, the companies attempted to find a way around these rules and funneled money through the college coaches to the players’ families.
So far, there are three players universally believed to have received money: Arizona recruit Jahvon Quinerly, Louisville freshman Brian Bowen, and uncommitted Nassir Little from Florida. Bowen has reportedly already been suspended indefinitely by Louisville and will most likely never be eligible to play college basketball. The same is thought to be the case for Quinerly and Little, as both are tied to accepting bribes to attend certain schools.
It is unclear what will happen next, but many believe the list of coaches will grow and more programs and charges will be revealed. Also, it is possible the FBI could turn their attention to college football, where it has long been rumored players have received illegal payments from universities and from boosters of programs. The situation in college football is slightly different however, in that the extra benefits are not believed to be delivered through apparel companies and sports agents as was done here. One thing is for certain however, this situation is far from over.