October 27, 2018

Wiretap audio reveals sordid details of pay-for-play scheme

By Matt Bradshaw —

Eight months ago, the FBI released a report detailing the corruption in men’s college basketball regarding payments for potential players. This past week, three people involved in the pay-for-play scandal were convicted after a three-week criminal trial in federal court.

Adidas employee James Gatto, former Adidas consultant Merl Code and sports agent Christian Dawkins were found guilty on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The trio of defendants influenced high-profile basketball recruits to attend Kansas, NC State and Louisville by paying the families of recruits.

“Today’s convictions expose an underground culture of illicit payments, deception and corruption in the world of college basketball,” U. S. Attorney Robert S. Khuzami said in a statement. “These defendants now stand conviction of not simply flouting the rules but breaking the law for their own personal gain.”

Dawkins was directly involved in conspiring to pay $100,000 from Adidas to Brian Bowen’s father to influence his son to sign with Louisville in summer 2017. Dawkins’ lawyer claimed former head coach Rick Pitino was aware of the payments to Bowen’s father, Brian Bowen Sr.

Federal wiretap audio was revealed to the general public and gives a behind-the-scenes look at the pay-for-play scandal. Multiple conversations involving Dawkins and Bowen Sr. cover the recruitment of his son and the detail of his efforts to get paid.

“This is the reason why I called,” Dawkins said in a phone conversation to Bowen Sr. “My question to you is…how the fuck do we get it [money] to you?”

Dawkins had regular contact with Bowen Sr. regarding payments. The sports agent was routinely rude to his client, calling him an “idiot” during one of their phone conversations and a “chicken with his head cut off” in a separate conversation with a financial advisor.

“You about to get money,” Dawkins told Bowen Sr. “You about to, you about to get some racks.”

Dawkins appeared confident in one recording that the business of paying potential players was not one that would end soon.

“Let’s say…we get five guys in this year’s draft and turn around and have five current guys in the NBA and we control everything,” Dawkins said in the recording. “Now we’re talking about in five years we could be more powerful than anybody in the business.”

Most pertinent to the current Louisville men’s basketball team is the eligibility of junior V. J. King. Code mentioned in a call with Gatto about heading to Louisville to “go check on VJ…I talked to his dad this morning.”

King’s last name is not mentioned in the recording, nor payments to him or his family. The co-captain’s eligibility and standing appear safe for now unless further evidence is revealed.

Athletic director Vince Tyra released a statement and dismissed concerns regarding King’s eligibility:

“Our university continually reviews the eligibility of all of its student-athletes. We have reviewed information recently presented at the trial in New York and do not believe it affects any of our current student-athletes. We will continue to monitor any new information that becomes available.”

You can follow the Louisville Cardinal on Twitter @thecardsports.

Photo courtesy / New York Daily News

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