By Brittany Bowyer / Cronkite News
A far-reaching scandal that includes charges of bribery by Arizona assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson sent shockwaves through the college basketball community Tuesday.
Assistants at three others schools and a senior executive at Adidas are among those arrested after being accused of trying to influence athletes’ choices of schools, agents and shoe companies.
“Today, we announce charges of fraud and corruption in the world of college basketball,” said Joon Kim, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Richardson has been “suspended and relieved of all duties,” Arizona said in a statement, adding it was “appalled to learn of the allegations as they do not reflect the standards we hold ourselves to and require from our colleagues.”
The FBI ran an undercover investigation that began in 2015, examining the bribes being offered to potential college athletes. Among those charged was Richardson, who has been an assistant coach at Arizona for the last nine years and has worked under coach Sean Miller for the last 11.
Other coaches charged were Auburn assistant Chuck Person, Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans and USC assistant Tony Bland.
“Protection of our student-athletes, and integrity of competition, is the conference’s top priority,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement, adding that if the allegations are true, they are “profoundly upsetting to me. They strike at the heart of the integrity of our programs and of the game that so many people love and play the right way.”
Scott has been in contact with the administrations at Arizona and USC and said he believed the schools are taking the matter seriously.
The three-year investigation looked at the criminal influence of money on NCAA coaches and athletes.
“Many such coaches have enormous influence over the student-athletes who play for them, in particular with respect to guiding those student-athletes through the process of selecting agents and other advisors when they prepare to leave college and enter the NBA,” the complaints said.
The complaints show instances where advisers abused their powers to steer players in a specific direction based on bribes.
Richardson accepted $20,000 in cash bribes during secret meetings in New York and other surrounding areas, according to documents. Unbeknownst to Richardson, those meetings were with undercover agents posing as corrupt advisers.
The news of the scandal was a hot topic of discussion locally and nationally. Tempe Corona del Sol coach Neil MacDonald was less than shocked.
“College basketball is a business. At any time in business, these things happen,” he said. “There are those that will corrupt the business. So, no, nothing that happens in college basketball surprises me.”
Among those named in the complaints was Chris Dawkins. The sports agent was fired from ASM Sports for racking up nearly $42,000 earlier this year in Uber charges on a player’s credit card. Following his termination, he was given money from Munish Sood, the founder and CEO of the Princeton Advisory Group, to start his own sports management company. Sood was also arrested on charges of fraud.
The FBI tapped into the phones of those believed to be involved and recorded multiple conversations. On the day before one of the meetings in June, Richardson contacted Dawkins to discuss a high school basketball player that Richardson was paying to recruit to play at Arizona, according to the complaint.
A few weeks later, Dawkins reported to an undercover agent that Richardson needed additional funds, amounting to $15,000, to secure the recruit. In the complaint, the player was identified as the “top point guard in the country.”
Richardson and Dawkins also had discussed which players on the Wildcats current roster he was planning to influence to sign with Dawkins’ new management company.
In one of the meetings recorded by law enforcement officials, Dawkins said, “If we take care of everybody, we control everything. You can make millions off one kid.”
Adidas employees James Gatto and Merl Code are among those being charged in the case. Gatto is the director of global sports marketing, and Code recently joined the Adidas team after leaving rival Nike. Former NBA official Rashan Michel, who founded Thompson Bespoke Clothing, was arrested along with Jonathan Brad Augustine, the director of the Adidas-sponsored 1 Family AAU program.
One situation of bribery involved offers to high school players and their families to commit to attend an Adidas-sponsored school. Another situation involved payments to players if they committed to certain Adidas-sponsored schools and signed with Dawkins to have him represent them as their sports agent.
Although two other universities weren’t named, the descriptions and locations match Louisville and Miami, where bribes were alleged involving Adidas.
“Today, we became aware that federal investigators arrested an Adidas employee,” Adidas said in a statement.
The company also said it was never informed of suspicious activities and is learning more as the case unfolds.
“We’re unaware of any misconduct and will fully cooperate with authorities to understand more.”
Arizona State, which has a many-layered partnership with Adidas, is not referenced in the complaints. The two are working together in a Global Sports Alliance, designed to help guide the future of sports and show their positive impact on society.
“Arizona State University first learned through media reports this morning of the charges filed against several people associated with intercollegiate basketball,” the school said in a statement. “ASU has not been contacted by law enforcement in relation to this matter. The university will monitor developments in the investigation. With respect to ASU’s overall relationship with Adidas, as of right now, nothing has changed.”
Court documents show that that Richardson was among two other coaches that received benefits and compensation from both Dawkins and Sood to persuade student-athletes to use their services.
Richardson is being charged on five different counts: conspiracy to commit bribery, solicitation of bribes by an agent of a federally funded organization, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, wire fraud conspiracy and travel act conspiracy.
“We have no tolerance whatsoever for this alleged behavior,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement. “Coaches hold a unique position of trust with student-athletes and their families and these bribery allegations, if true, suggest an extraordinary and despicable breach of that trust.”
Arizona originally had media day scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. However, following the investigation, the university announced it would be postponed.
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