The basketball fraud case is in court and it sure sounds like two things are true.
One, there are a lot of dirty schools.
But Donnelly said in her opening statements that coaches at Adidas-sponsored schools asked Gatto for help in securing the highly ranked players.
Specifically, Donnelly alleged the evidence will show that Gatto agreed to pay Brian Bowen’s father, Brian Bowen Sr., $100,000 for Bowen to attend Louisville, but only after Nike-sponsored Oregon offered the recruit an “astronomical amount of money” to sign with the Ducks.
Donnelly said Gatto and defendants Merl Code and Christian Dawkins also schemed to pay Nassir Little’s family $150,000 to steer him toward the Miami Hurricanes, but only after Arizona, a Nike school, offered the five-star prospect from Florida the same amount to play for the Wildcats. Little committed to North Carolina shortly after the investigation broke last September.
And Donnelly said Gatto assisted Kansas by approving a $20,000 payment to Silvio De Sousa’s guardian, Fenny Falmagne, to reimburse Under Armour, which had paid him to ensure that he signed with Maryland.
And, two, the prosecution has a tough sell ahead of it.
In her opening statement, Donnelly emphasized that breaking NCAA rules is not necessarily breaking federal law.
“The NCAA rules are the not the laws of the country,” she said. “It’s like a kids’ after-school soccer league, if that soccer league also brought in $1 billion a year. These aren’t the laws. They’re the equivalent of the rules in your apartment building. If you break them, you haven’t broken the law. It is not against the law to violate NCAA rules.”
Donnelly told the jury that Gatto thought of the schemes as a “win-win-win” scenario that benefited all three parties involved: the universities, by getting top-ranked players; Adidas, by getting top players at Adidas-sponsored schools; and the players and their families, by getting money to tide them over until they could play professionally.
“The basketball coaches would ask for Jim’s help in recruiting particularly talented basketball players to their programs,” Donnelly said. “I suspect you know what kind of ‘help’ the coaches wanted from Jim. He’s not a guidance counselor. Jim understood that Adidas should help the families out if that’s what the coaches wanted.”
Whichever way this goes, it won’t be pretty.