The more reports you read from the ongoing wire fraud case against three Adidas representatives, the more it becomes obvious that the world of basketball recruiting is churning with cash, such that the only reason anyone inside of it could conceivably resist paying college athletes officially is to protect a lot of under-the-table cash going to a whole reeking galaxy of coaches and advisors and consultants and influence-peddlers.
Today’s big development came from the testimony of ex-Adidas “consultant” T.J. Gassnola, who was called as a government witness and said that he made payments to the families of Suns rookie DeAndre Ayton and second-year Mavericks guard Dennis Smith Jr., along with several other notable college players. While the dollar amounts of those transactions haven’t yet been discussed, Gassnola reportedly corroborated the testimony from last week of Brian Bowen Sr., who said that Adidas funneled $25,000 his way in exchange for his son affiliating with Adidas-backed AAU programs and committing to Louisville.
Gassnola testified that he agreed to pay $25,000 to the family of Brian Bowen Jr. for their son to play for the Adidas-sponsored Michigan Mustangs grassroots program. Dawkins had first informed Gassnola the family was interested in leaving their current program and playing for a different one, but the family “needed $25,000 to make that move.”
“I told [Dawkins] I would get it done and take care of it,” Gassnola told the jury.
Gassnola said he sent $7,000 in cash in a magazine to the Bowen family, while Adidas executive Chris Rivers “took care of the rest of it.”
The families of two Kansas recruits—Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa—are alleged to have received $90,000 and $20,000, respectively, also from Adidas. Assistant coaches at half a dozen major basketball programs, executives at one of the world’s biggest apparel companies, a whole seedy roster of AAU circuits and programs, and a growing list of blue-chip recruits have now been named in testimony. What drives all this business underground is the NCAA’s forced amateurism, which is a labor exploitation racket cynically grafted onto higher education, so that sleazy and unscrupulous nonparticipants can become rich off of it. The trial is bringing some of that into the light, but wouldn’t it be simpler if, instead of forcing the market underground and then hunting around for it in the muck, all the money that’s already changing hands were just, you know, paid to the players who drive the whole business?