21 October 2020 - Article
This article was initially published by Law360 on November 2, 2018.
The recent convictions of a pair of former Adidas basketball marketers and an aspiring sports agent for defrauding schools including the University of Louisville provided a level of vindication for the NCAA, but the details laid bare in the weekslong trial may embolden prosecutors to go after bigger fish within the schools.
A federal jury convicted former Adidas AG marketing boss Jim Gatto, former Adidas consultant Merl Coe and aspiring agent Christian Dawkins on Oct. 24 for paying athletes on the sly, handing the Manhattan U.S. attorney a win with two more college basketball-related criminal trials on deck.
Prosecutors said Gatto, Code and Dawkins paid athletes and their families to steer the athletes to schools sponsored by Adidas in the hopes that those players would sign a sponsorship deal with the company if they ended up going pro. The defendants admitted that they broke NCAA rules but denied breaking the law, arguing that they were trying to please the schools by attracting talented recruits and were acting with the schools’ knowledge and consent.
The conduct is a black eye for the schools — Louisville, North Carolina State University and the University of Kansas — bringing them under further scrutiny and raising the possibility that other schools could be drawn into the controversy and that head coaches and school officials may find themselves as the next targets.
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