FBI arrests NCAA basketball coaches and Adidas rep in bribery probe involving recruitment

  • The FBI arrests 10 people, including four NCAA basketball coaches and an Adidas manager, in a bribery investigation involving recruitment efforts.
  • The four assistant or associate coaches are from Oklahoma State, Auburn, Arizona and the University of Southern California.
  • Joon H. Kim, the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said the NCAA wasn't made aware of the investigation until Tuesday.

The FBI has arrested 10 people, including four NCAA basketball coaches and an Adidas manager, in a bribery investigation involving recruitment efforts.

The probe has revealed numerous instances of bribes paid to assistant and associate basketball coaches to exert influence over student athletes, according to documents filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. The papers were unsealed on Tuesday.

Among those arrested were Lamont Evans, an associate coach of Oklahoma State University, Chuck Person, an associate coach of Auburn University, Emanuel "Book" Richardson, an assistant coach of the University of Arizona, and Tony Bland, an associate coach of the University of Southern California.

NCAA President Mark Emmert called the nature of the charges "deeply disturbing" in a statement released later Tuesday.

"We have no tolerance whatsoever for this alleged behavior," Emmert said. "Coaches hold a unique position of trust with student-athletes and their families and these bribery allegations, if true, suggest an extraordinary and despicable breach of that trust. We learned of these charges this morning and of course will support the ongoing criminal federal investigation."

Investigators said Oklahoma State's Evans bragged about his ability to steer athletes toward prospective agents and advisors, promising "every guy I recruit and get is my personal kid."

According to court papers, Evans expected $2,000 per month for his services, but he could ask for an extra $5,000 to $7,000, "at the end of the day for delivering." Evans had said his influence was necessary, so that incoming basketball players wouldn't be "one and done" — playing at the collegiate level for a year before moving on to the NBA.

A representative from Oklahoma State University told CNBC, "Based on the serious and troubling allegations in the complaint, Oklahoma State University has suspended assistant coach Lamont Evans."

"We are cooperating fully with officials," the Oklahoma State representative added. "We have been in contact with the NCAA and will provide additional information as it becomes available. OSU takes seriously the high standards of conduct expected in our athletic department and does not tolerate any deviation from those standards."

The other schools allegedly involved in the probe didn't immediately respond to CNBC's requests for comment.

Other individuals arrested include managers, financial advisors and an executive of German footwear maker Adidas, on charges of paying bribes. The charges include allegations that some high-school athletes were paid to attend certain universities.

According to court documents, the sports apparel executive listed is James "Jim" Gatto, whose LinkedIn profile identifies him as Adidas' director of global sports marketing for basketball.

Gatto has been accused of getting $100,000 to an "All-American high school basketball player" — so the player would attend a school with an apparel contract with Adidas. No students in the probe have been identified by name.

A description of the university with ties to Gatto — a public institution in Kentucky with 22,640 students — would match the University of Louisville. A representative from the school didn't immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment.

A private school in Florida was also mentioned in the court papers, unidentified by name. It is believed to be the University of Miami, with roughly 16,000 students.

The University of Miami's director of athletics said in a statement to CNBC: "The University of Miami is aware of the indictments handed down today. ... As we are just learning the details, we cannot comment on the actions taken today by federal authorities. However, if requested, we will cooperate in any legal or NCAA review of the matter."

Shares of Adidas fell more than 2 percent in Germany and the U.S. after the report.

"Today, we became aware that federal investigators arrested an adidas employee," a spokeswoman from the international sports retailer said in a statement.

"We are learning more about the situation," she wrote. "We're unaware of any misconduct and will fully cooperate with authorities to understand more."

Court papers show the FBI has been conducting a bribery investigating involving athletic recruiting at NCAA-backed schools since 2015.

Investigators said basketball coaches have the ability to provide student athletes access to sports agents and other important figures.

"Moreover, many such coaches have enormous influence over the student-athletes who play for them, in particular with respect to guiding those student-athletes through the process of selecting agents and other advisers when they prepare to leave college and enter the NBA," the complaints said.

"The investigation has revealed several instances in which coaches have exercised that influence by steering players and their families to retain particular advisers, not because of the merits of those advisers, but because the coaches were being bribed by the advisers to do so," the court papers added.

The FBI made its 10 arrests Monday evening, a senior law enforcement official told NBC News. Person was arrested in Alabama; Bland in Tampa, Florida; Evans in Oklahoma; and Richardson in Arizona.

The U.S. attorney for New York held a press conference Tuesday afternoon, offering more details about the arrests.

Joon H. Kim, the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said the probe had been "covert," and the NCAA wasn't made aware of the investigation until Tuesday. The full investigation is said to unveil "the dark belly of college basketball."

Kim described what him and his team have uncovered as, "coaches at some of the nation's top programs taking cash bribes, managers and advisers circling blue-chip prospects like coyotes, and employees of a global sportswear company funneling cash to families of high school recruits."

"For the 10 charged men, the madness of college basketball went well beyond the Big Dance in March," he added.

— CNBC's Sara Salinas, Michael Sheetz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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