Former Adidas director of global sports marketing for basketball James Gatto, former Adidas consultant Merl Code, and sports business manager Christian Dawkins were all sentenced to prison today for their roles in a college basketball corruption scandal that amounted to a few players and their families receiving a little extra cash.
Gatto will get nine months in prison, while Code and Dawkins will each get six, for the crimes of wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy. All three men are going to appeal their convictions, while Code and Dawkins are both set for another trial in April for alleged payments to assistant coaches at Arizona, USC, and Oklahoma State.
After the sentences were announced, U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami got hyperbolically moralistic about the fact that these guys would spend time behind bars:
“The sentences imposed today only begin to reflect the magnitude of the harm these defendants caused through a scheme that not only defrauded multiple public universities but upended the lives of young student-athletes and corrupted a game cherished by so many. Today’s sentences send a clear message to those who might be similarly tempted to corrupt collegiate athletics for their own personal gain that defrauding schools in connection with athletic scholarships is not just a rules violation but a crime, one that will result in a prison term.”
What exactly was the “magnitude of the harm?” Let’s recap:
- Gatto, Code, and Dawkins helped funnel $100,000 to the father of Brian Bowen, a Louisville recruit, so Bowen would could commit to play at the Adidas-sponsored school.
- Gatto and former Adidas consultant Thomas Gassnola (who is awaiting his own sentence) funneled $90,000 to Billy Preston’s family, and agreed to funnel money to the legal guardian of Silvio De Sousa, so both would commit to play for Adidas-sponsored Kansas.
- Gatto and Gassnola helped funnel $40,000 from Adidas to the family of Dennis Smith Jr., so he wouldn’t de-commit from Adidas-sponsored NC State.
No doubt, some harm came out of these actions. Smith was fine, playing a year at NC State and then getting drafted ninth overall in 2017. But Bowen, who entered college a year later, never played for Louisville because the FBI investigative report revealed his family had taken payments. He transferred to South Carolina in January 2018, but eventually decided to go pro rather than follow NCAA regulations and sit out two semesters until January 2019. He now plays in Australia.
Preston fell under NCAA investigation over the “financial picture” of his vehicle after he was involved in a car accident in November 2017, and never played a regular season game for Kansas. He left school in January of 2018 as the investigation dragged on, and he’s in the NBA’s developmental league now.
De Sousa is still at Kansas, and played as a freshman. But the NCAA ruled that he would be forced to sit out the entirety of his 2018-19 and 2019-20 season, because of something he says he didn’t even know about.
So, yes, Khuzami is right that these payments “upended the lives of young student-athletes,” but in every case the harm was caused by the NCAA’s draconian punishments for accepting money that the players should have already been entitled to. Gatto, Code, and Dawkins are by no means noble men just for giving some folks cash, but what they’re really going to prison for is simply carrying out a basic tenant of capitalism: paying the people who will help them make more money.
By the way, absolutely no harm befell any of the programs affected by the payments. NC State, Kansas, and Louisville are all projected to make the NCAA Tournament this month.