• NCAA Pay

    Author : Criminal Defense Associates October 25, 2018

    The world of sports has had its fair share of criminal legal troubles, from murders and domestic abuse up to tax evasion and fraud. But recently, two former Adidas employees and a wannabe sports agent were found guilty in a Manhattan federal court for their role in a fraudulent scheme to recruit college basketball players. The allegations were not surprising: the top college basketball players in the country were receiving money under the table through third parties and agents, including major businesses like Adidas and Nike. In this particular case, prosecutors claimed that the three defendants moved money from Adidas who wound up at three college teams who were sponsored by Adidas: Louisville, Kansas, and North Caroline State. The prosecution continued to claim that the defendants deceived various universities into issuing scholarships to players who should have otherwise been ineligible. The prosecution focused on the fact that the university had been defrauded because the player’s eligibility was jeopardized once the university issued its scholarship to him – a fairly unique argument, and one that the jury apparently accepted.

    The government provided text messages between the defendants and various coaches, as well as testimony from the father of a recruit where he admitted that an assistant coach from Louisville had handed him an envelope stuffed with cash. The NCAA has strict rules against ‘pay-for-play,’ and these three defendants skirted the rules without informing the universities. The federal prosecutors presented evidence that the defendants created false invoices to Adidas, moved funds through multiple bank accounts and ultimately converted it into cash for the families. The defendants’ motivation? By getting these players a spot on various university teams, the corporations would receive a boon from their sponsored teams, and potentially provide endorsement opportunities if the players eventually turned into professional athletes.

    Attorneys for the defense tried to show that there was no harm done to the university or anyone else and that while they broke the NCAA rules, there was no culpability under federal law. They also attempted to introduce evidence that demonstrated university officials were in touch with the middlemen appointed by Adidas to show that they had to be aware of the payments the players and their family were receiving.

    Agents in the FBI had conducted a complex undercover operation back in 2015, using wiretaps, surveillance cameras, and cooperating witnesses. The FBI was able to document various coaches and other third-parties accepting bribes or paying players and pushing them to specific university programs. As a result of this investigation, 10 other coaches had been arrested and charged on bribery conspiracy, solicitation of bribes, honest services fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and the Travel Act conspiracy. If the coaches are convicted, they face up to 80 years in prison. These convictions may have a chilling effect on what has been rumored to be a fairly regular practice of pay-for-play in college basketball. There is speculation that it could also end the NBA's ‘one-and-done' rule, where players must wait at least one year to enter the professional draft after their high school graduation. In fact, the NBA just recently announced a program which would encourage the best players to skip college and enter an intermediate league to train for at least a year and receive a salary of $125,000.00.

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