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Louisville among college basketball programs accused of bribery in wake of FBI investigation

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

NEW YORK – The University of Louisville basketball program is apparently named in a federal criminal complaint, alleging a bribery scheme involving coaches, advisors and agents, along with a major sports apparel company.

Four assistant college coaches are among 10 charged in the complaint, which was unveiled on Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, culminating an undercover investigation, with the assistance of a confidential witness.

The complaint alleges the coaches, acting with the others, would funnel money to recruits to get them to commit to a university, then agree to use the sports apparel company’s products, and sign with the agents, when they turn pro.

Rick Pitino’s Louisville basketball program is already on NCAA probation. Federal bribery charges could lead to the NCAA issuing the death penalty — banning the Cardinals from playing (UofL Athletics Photo)

The University of Louisville is not named, but a passage of the complaint states, “Based on my review of publicly available information, University-6 is a public research university located in Kentucky.

With approximately 22,640 students and more than 7,000 faculty and staff members, it is one of the state’s largest universities. University-6 fields approximately 21 varsity sports teams in NCAA Division I, including men’s basketball.”

A Google search shows the University of Louisville enrollment as 22,640.

A statement released Tuesday afternoon by Dr. Greg Postel, interim President of the University of Louisville, admits the school is “University-6.” It said, “Today, the University of Louisville received notice that it is included in a federal investigation involving criminal activity related to men’s basketball recruiting.

“While we are just learning about this information, this is a serious concern that goes to the heart of our athletic department and the university. U of L is committed to ethical behavior and adherence to NCAA rules; any violations will not be tolerated.

“We will cooperate fully with any law enforcement or NCAA investigation into the matter.”

The complaint also reads, “…in and around May of 2017, at the request of at least one coach at University-6, Christian Dawkins, James Gatto, Merl Code, Munish Sood, the defendants, and others, agreed to funnel $100,000 (payable in four installments) from Company-1 [NOTE: Gatto has been director of global marketing for Adidas Basketball], to the family of Player-10. Shortly after the agreement with the family of Player-10 was reached in late May and early June, Player-10 publicly committed to University-6.”

According to the complaint, “Contemporaneous press accounts described the announcement as a ‘surprise commitment’ that ‘came out of nowhere’ and a ‘late recruiting coup for coaches at University-6.”

A footnote to that passage reads, “Based on my review of publicly available information, I have learned that Player-10 is listed on the 2017-2018 University-6 men’s basketball team.”

The complaint is signed by John Vourderis, a Special Agent with the FBI.

Joon Kim, Acting U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, was blunt at a press conference.

“The madness of college basketball went well beyond the Big Dance in March. Month after month, the defendants exploited the hoops dreams of student athletes around the country. Allegedly treating them as little more than opportunities to enrich themselves, through bribery and fraud schemes.”

In reading the more than 100 pages of the criminal complaints, Kim said, “You will find yourselves in the dark underbelly of college basketball.”

Numerous media reports indicate Player-10 is thought to be Brian Bowen, who committed to the Cardinals through a tweet on June 3.

The charges say “Coach-1” is on an FBI video recording inside of a Las Vegas hotel room.

According to the indictment, the person, who is identified as an assistant coach, said that University-6 was already on probation with the NCAA. It said the assistant coach agreed that they need to be particularly careful with how they passed money to “Player-11.”

The four assistant coaches charged in the complaint are Arizona’s Emanuel Richardson, Auburn’s Chuck Person, Oklahoma State’s Lamont Evans and USC’s Tony Bland. Despite the complaint passage that mentions, “At least one coach at University-6,” no one associated with the U of L program has been charged.

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