Prosecutors Charge NCAA Coaches With Bribery And Fraud

Sep 27, 2017
Originally published on September 27, 2017 12:48 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

An undercover investigation has exposed what federal authorities are calling the dark underbelly of college basketball. Four NCAA coaches, a senior executive at Adidas, plus some sports agents and advisers, are facing federal charges of bribery and fraud. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang has the story.

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: The coaches allegedly accepted bribes to steer students toward particular agents and advisers. That's according to the acting U.S. attorney in Manhattan, Joon Kim.

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JOON KIM: All of them had the trust of the young players they coached and recruited, young men who looked up to them and believed that the coaches had their best interests at heart.

WANG: The charges come after a sting operation involving wiretaps and a previously convicted financial adviser cooperating with the government. They all lead to charges against associate and assistant coaches from the University of Arizona, USC, Auburn and Oklahoma State University. Kim says the FBI recorded one of the sports agents describing their plans this way.

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KIM: If we take care of everybody, we control everything, you can make millions off of one kid.

WANG: In a separate alleged scheme, federal investigators say a marketing executive for Adidas agreed to funnel as much as $150,000 to a high school basketball player. In exchange, the player would play for a university sponsored by Adidas. And once the player turned pro, he would sign with certain agents and advisers. In a written statement, a spokesperson for Adidas says the company is, quote, "unaware of any misconduct and will fully cooperate with authorities." Still, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York office, Bill Sweeney, had this warning for anyone involved in similar deals.

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BILL SWEENEY: We have your playbook. Our investigation is ongoing, and we are conducting additional interviews as I speak.

FRITZ POLITE: That's - that to me is the wake-up call.

WANG: Fritz Polite is a dean at Shenandoah University in Virginia. He studies college athletics, and he says this kind of federal investigation may help put a stop to an underground economy unknown to many college sports fans.

POLITE: They don't see the buyouts and the payouts coaches get from going from one school to another school or to switch over from Adidas to Nike and how much money takes place underneath that table.

WANG: Polite says if federal investigators keep digging, there'll likely be more indictments to come. The defendants named Tuesday face significant time in prison. Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News, New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF JUBILEE'S "SAWGRASS EXPRESSWAY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.