The federal government’s wire fraud case against Christian Dawkins, Merl Code, and James Gatto for allegedly using Adidas’ money to pay college basketball recruits is nearing its conclusion, as the District Court judge in charge of the case reportedly told the jury today that deliberations could begin as early as Thursday. Former Adidas consultant T.J. Gassnola testified last week that he paid $90,000 to former Kansas player Billy Preston, and agreed to pay $20,000 to current Jayhawk Silvio De Sousa, though he said today that neither KU coach Bill Self nor his assistant Kurtis Townsend knew anything about the payments.
However, attorneys for the defense presented text messages between Gassnola, Self, and Townsend that show Gassnola was at the very least involved in De Sousa’s recruitment. Gassnola says he paid De Sousa’s guardian Fenny Falmagne $20,000 to get De Sousa out of a pay-to-play arrangement with Maryland. The text messages were shown on a screen in a New York courtroom, with no recording devices allowed in the room. Here is ESPN with a recap:
On Aug. 9, 2017, Townsend texted Gassnola and wrote, “Coach Self just talked to Fenny let me know how it goes.”
A few hours later, Gassnola texted Self: “Hall of Fame. When you have 5 minutes and your [sic] alone call me.”
Later that night, after Self hadn’t responded, Gassnola texted him again: “I talked with Fenny.”
“We good,” Self asked via text.
“Always,” Gassnola replied. “That’s [sic] was light work. Ball is in his court now.”
In September, Gassnola texted Self to congratulate him on the $191 million sponsorship deal Kansas was about to sign with Adidas. Self replied, “I’m happy with Adidas. Just got to get a couple real guys.” Gassnola later told Self, “I have never let you down. Except Dyondre lol. We will get it right,” a reference to DeAndre Ayton, to whom Gassnola said he paid $15,000 on behalf of Adidas when Ayton was a high school junior.
Aside from the fact that Gassnola might have failed to turn Ayton to Kansas because he doesn’t know how to spell his name, the takeaway here is that the entire system of payments to high school athletes is so shady, predatory, and convoluted because the NCAA’s hollow farce of “amateurism” forces it all underground. College basketball is a big enough business that labor needs to get paid, and if the NCAA won’t let it happen above ground, then it falls on a vast network of con artists, AAU hucksters, and shoe company “consultants” to funnel money to players. That hurts everyone, and we wouldn’t have to go through this embarrassing trial for the sanctity of the game or whatever if the NCAA wasn’t such a greedy cartel of an organization.