That included Gatto and Adidas allegedly doling out a $45,000 payment to a North Carolina State recruit, Dennis Smith Jr. That transaction, the indictment charges, came at the request of a Wolfpack coach so Smith wouldn’t back out of his commitment to the school. Gatto was charged with defrauding NC State, although how you can defraud a place when you’re acting at the behest of a key employee is an intriguing concept.
It also included Gatto being asked to help an unnamed but easily identified high school star, 6-foot-9 Silvio De Sousa, so that he would attend Kansas. The problem was that De Sousa, according to the indictment, “had received illicit payments in return for a commitment to steer the student-athlete to a university sponsored by a rival athletic apparel company.” De Sousa was considered by recruiting experts to be a near lock to attend Maryland, which is sponsored by Under Armour. In order for De Sousa to attend KU, his guardian, via an Adidas-sponsored AAU coach, was allegedly asking Adidas to “repay the [original] illicit payment.” Gatto allegedly approved. Later, there was an additional request for “‘another $20,000’ ” payment to get ” ‘out from under’ the deal to attend the [other] school.”
The problem isn’t one-and-done, agents or a lack of NCAA enforcement. The problem is that major college athletics have become obscenely profitable. Ironically, when it comes to basketball, that’s on the NCAA itself. As Dan Wetzel writes,
College basketball is its own multibillion-dollar business. It has its own motivations. Age rule or no age rule, tickets will be sold, television deals inked and coaches expected to win. The game was no less competitive or cutthroat before the age-limit rule when the best high schoolers went directly to the NBA. Just because LeBron wasn’t available, revenue, salaries and competition went up.
You really want to put a halt to all this? Take the big money out of college athletics and it goes away tomorrow. The odds of that happening are about the same as the NFL starting its own minor league. But if it makes you feel better to blame the pros, have at it.