The FBI Trials Have Begun and College Basketball's Day of Reckoning is Here

The FBI Trials Have Begun and College Basketball's Day of Reckoning is Here

Aaron Torresabout 3 years


Article written by:Aaron TorresAaron Torres
For months, the buzz around college basketball’s FBI probe has essentially centered on one simple question: Is that really all the FBI has? If you can remember back to the day this story broke last year, a morning in which a bunch of sneaker company executives, agents, runners and college basketball assistant coaches were nabbed by the FBI, virtually everyone who covers college basketball – including me – gave a warning to those who love the sport: This was just the tip of the iceberg. It seemed inevitable that other programs would become involved. It seemed certain that other big-time coaches would lose their jobs. Yet outside of Maryland, Kansas and NC State being loosely implicated in the probe back in April, there has been relatively little “news” out of the case. Still, whenever anyone asked me why there was no news, and if anything was actually going to happen, I continued to tell them to be patient. That once these cases went to trial, we’d get news. Lots of it. And there’d be new teams, new coaches and new players implicated. Well folks, welcome to that day. The trials opened in earnest on Tuesday and college basketball has already been completely flipped on its head. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that when all the trials wrap up in the coming months, complete carnage could overtake the sport. Things began on Monday {albeit in a quiet fashion), where a list of potential witnesses who could be called to the witness stand in the trial was released. It included a handful of names you’d expect from schools who have been tied to the probe (Arizona’s Sean Miller, Kansas’ Bill Self) but also a bunch of schools who hadn’t before been implicated. Among those schools was Oregon, Creighton and DePaul, three schools which actively recruited Brian Bowen before he committed to Louisville. It also included LSU, whose association isn’t completely obvious at this point. Still, if Monday was the day where the tip of the iceberg was within sight, Tuesday was the day the whole damn boat crashed at full speed. That’s because Tuesday was the day where the lawyer for former Adidas executive Jim Gatto (the guy alleged to have arranged for the payment of $100,000 to get Brian Bowen to Louisville) made his opening statements. And in making those opening statements, Gatto’s lawyer went nuclear on the sport of college basketball. In the process, he wanted to make one thing clear: His client wasn’t acting alone. Giving out $100,000 to players is simply the world that Gatto lived in. Among the allegations that Gatto’s lawyer dropped in his opening statement:
  • The reason Adidas gave $100,000 to Brian Bowen’s dad was to outbid Oregon his son’s services. According to Gatto’s lawyer, they have proof that Oregon was willing to pay “an astronomical amount of money” to get Bowen to Eugene.
  • That Adidas helped NC State get $40,000 to Dennis Smith Jr.’s family during his time at the school.
  • That Adidas did in fact give $20,000 to current Kansas forward Silvio de Souza. The payment was to outbid Under Armour, which was willing to pay an undisclosed amount to get him to Maryland.
  • That Arizona was ready to pay $150,000 – 150K!!! – to land five-star forward Nassir Little. Because of Arizona’s bid, Miami, an Adidas school, reached out to Gatto to try and raise more funds to match the Wildcats’ offer. Little hadn’t yet committed when the FBI probe hit last September, and ultimately ended up at North Carolina
So yeah, to quote your favorite tanned, Jersey Shore personality: “Wooooooooooooah buddy.” Boy did things just get interesting. And to be abundantly clear, things are just getting started. Remember, Tuesday was simply the opening remarks of Gatto’s trial, the chance for his lawyer to explain the case that they planned on presenting to the court. Meaning that if you think about the trial as a long distance marathon, we are barely out of the first mile yet. No witnesses have been called. No testimonies have been taken. No evidence – those mounds of e-mails, texts and wire-tapped phone calls that the FBI collected – have been submitted into evidence. That also means that there is little doubt that by the end of the trial, we will in fact have a whole new set of names and coaches who are directly implicated in this case. Considering that Arizona’s Sean Miller and Kansas coach Bill Self are on the witness list, we could hear some big names called to the stand before this is all said and done. Add it all up, and it leaves me asking a lot of questions about “what’s next.” Not just in these trials, or with the people involved, but for the future of college basketball. And considering so many of you do in fact love this sport, that last part is what I’ll focus on. Ultimately, it’s important to remember that Gatto and his lawyers will use this trial to basically argue that while they did commit major NCAA violations – something they’ve literally already confessed to– that no federal laws were broken. I’m no legal scholar, but it seems like they have a pretty good argument, especially if they can prove that Gatto’s actions (paying players) were pretty much part of his job description. In essence, what his lawyers will say is that paying $100,000 to Brian Bowen was just part of his job description. College basketball’s version of “keeping up with the Joneses.” Still, while it will make for an interesting case at trial, in the NCAA’s eyes it doesn’t matter. While the FBI might have a tough case to prove, if people admit under oath that they broke NCAA rules, it could mean absolute carnage in college basketball. For example, let’s say Sean Miller is called to the witness stand to testify about arranged payments for Nassir Little (I’m not saying that will happen, nor that Miller definitively knew. This is all a hypothetical). While Miller won’t be looking at jail time, that is a major, egregious NCAA rules violation. And of course he would be fired the second he made the confession. Same if Bill Self if he admits to having any knowledge of a payment to Silvio de Souza. Now many of you are probably thinking the same thing: Yeah right. Fat chance either of them confesses to anything. Except remember, this isn’t an NCAA investigation. This is a court of law. And if either of them – or any other witness – gets caught lying under oath that’s called perjury. And they’ll go to jail for it. If any of those coaches are called, we will get the truth. More importantly, there is also one other thing to consider: This is just the first trial and right now we’re only going through Gatto’s rolodex. The assistant coaches (Arizona’s Book Richardson, Auburn’s Chuck Person etc.) have their own separate trials in the coming months. How many other players, parents, agents, runners and head coaches could be caught up in that? Considering that – as I pointed out last week – just about every big-time recruit in last year’s class was somehow linked to the schools caught in the FBI probe, it could be a lot. That’s also why the point that I made the day this scandal broke a year ago is now coming to fruition: Those handful of schools involved were just the tip of the iceberg here. There could be dozens of others involved as these trials play out. College basketball’s day of reckoning is here. And until those trials wrap up, no major program, coach or recruit should feel 100 percent safe.

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