Sentences have been meted out in the corruption scandal that has rocked NCAA basketball over the past couple of years, and if defendants were hoping for leniency, their hopes were badly misplaced.
U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of New York handed sentences down to James Gatto, Merl Code and Christian Dawkins, the principal figures in the pay-for-play scandal involving Adidas, ESPN reported.
Gatto got nine months in jail, while Code and Dawkins each received six-month sentences after being convicted of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in October.
At issue was the men directing money from Adidas to the families of major college basketball recruits in a quid pro quo arrangement whereby the players would then sign endorsement deals with the sneaker company and sign on with company-approved financial planners and business managers upon the players’ ascension to the NBA following their “one-and-done” college careers.
Dawkins’ attorney, Steven Haney, told reporters that all three men were released on appeal bonds and all will appeal their sentences.
The defendants’ attorneys had all lobbied for sentences that did not include jail time, but the courts ruled that such sentences would be insufficiently punitive given the nature and severity of the crimes.
U.S. Attorney Robert S. Khuzami, in a sentencing motion filed last week, said that “a sentence that includes a term of incarceration is necessary to reflect, among other things, the seriousness of the defendants’ conduct and the need to promote deterrence, and is thus sufficient but not greater than necessary to further the legitimate purposes of sentencing,” according to the Louisville Courier Journal.
Kaplan, for his part, expressed a degree of sympathy for the defendants, who were on trial for crimes that others involved in similar incidents did not face charges for.
But at the same time, the judge adhered to the letter of the law in saying, “These defendants all knew what they were doing was wrong,” and that he wanted to send “a great big warning light to the basketball world.”
The convicted men expressed remorse while simultaneously condemning what they saw as a naturally corrupt system in which breaking the law is on some level an essential part of doing business.
Gatto said simply, “I deeply regret my actions.”
Dawkins spoke of “social dysfunction” in college basketball and in part defended his actions by referring to a “system that takes advantage of kids.”
All the same, he said, “I realize now more than ever none of this was worth it.”
And Code used the moment as a rallying cry for reform when he said, “Some things (have) really got to be changed about college basketball.”
The affected universities included Kansas, North Carolina State and Louisville, schools that hoped, through restitution from the convictions, to recoup nearly $1.4 million for improperly disbursed scholarships and legal fees.
Furthermore, none of these three men are out of the woods yet; they face another trial in April for their alleged role in bribing several college coaches in order to advance their scheme to create a talent pipeline for Dawkins’ budding sports agency.
Haney will be representing the defendants in that trial as well, but he sought to distance these convictions from that still-undecided legal matter.
“The sentencing has nothing to do with April,” Haney said. “We have a case to defend and feel strongly about our position. We’re 1,000 percent not backing down.”
The long-term ramifications for college basketball, the coaches and the players remain open questions, and similarly, the NBA has yet to comment on the matter or the role that perceived corruption in the college game will play in negotiations ongoing with the players’ union to remove the requirement that incoming NBA players wait a year after high school in order to be eligible for the NBA draft.
The three Adidas executives remain free until the result of their appeal.
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