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Adidas officials, agent sentenced in NCAA basketball corruption trial

By
Daniel Uria
Two Adidas officials and a sports agent were sentenced to between six and nine months in prison for brokering deals to send college basketball prospects to universities sponsored by the company. File Photo by Gary C. Caskey/UPI
Two Adidas officials and a sports agent were sentenced to between six and nine months in prison for brokering deals to send college basketball prospects to universities sponsored by the company. File Photo by Gary C. Caskey/UPI | License Photo

March 5 (UPI) -- Three men were sentenced Tuesday in New York in a federal probe of a college basketball pay-for-play scandal involving Adidas and three universities.

Jim Gatto, a former basketball marketing executive at Adidas was sentenced to nine months in prison, while former Adidas basketball consultant Merl Code and Christian Dawkins, a former recruiter for an NBA agent, were each sentenced to six months in prison for brokering deals to steer top basketball prospects to schools sponsored by the athletics brand.

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The men were found guilty last October of wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy for setting up a deal to pay the father of one top recruit $100,000 for his son to attend the University of Louisville.

Gatto faced 46 months to 57 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines, while Code and Dawkins each faced 30 months to 37 months.

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Judge Lewis Kaplan said the sentences reflected that the men had led "good and productive lives" and "learned their lesson," in addition to the fact that similar acts had been committed within the realm of college basketball "with some frequency."

Evidence in the trial also included Adidas officials discussing bids on athletes from rival brands, including Nike and Under Armour.

Kaplan added, however, that he intended to send a "great big warning light to the basketball world" and to "deter others and make them think twice before engaging in this type of conduct."

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In the midst of the investigation, Louisville fired its men's head basketball coach, Rick Pitino, who didn't "know everything" about the deals being brokered in order to maintain "plausible deniability," Code said in a wiretapped call.

"They were covering their tracks, and they were covering Rick Pitino's tracks," Kaplan said. "Regardless of what Rick Pitino did or didn't know, the point is these men knew what they were doing was wrong, and they were covering it up."

In addition to the University of Louisville, Gatto was also convicted of arranging deals to send athletes to the University of Kansas and North Carolina State University.

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All three universities requested restitution and Kaplan ordered Code and Dawkins to pay $28,261 each, while a decision on Gatto's payments was deferred to a hearing next month.

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