Scandal, Wire Fraud, Bribery and Taxpayer Money: The Foundations of College Basketball

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By Elizabeth Fitch, Staff Writer


“College basketball has been dirty for a long time, and now here is the proof. In devastating detail.”[1]Just how dirty? The current NCAA basketball corruption trial is working to expose the worst-kept secret in college sports: coaches, players and multi-billion-dollar corporations engaging in federal crimes. All to secure top recruits.[2]

Trials and debates surrounding the NCAA in the news is nothing new. Whether collegiate athletes should be compensated for playing sports is an issue that has been unresolved for decades now.[3]“In this country, you are worth what someone will pay you. Unless you’re a college athlete.”[4] Student athletes argue one side: I play for a school that is making money off my name and my athletic accomplishments, I should get a cut. The NCAA argues the other: remaining an amateur is crucial to preserving an academic environment in which acquiring quality education is the first priority; the free education is enough.[5]

It is not surprising to most people that NCAA athletes are prohibited from accepting money or bribes from schools or outside agents. A detailed thirteen-page list of rules discussing ethical conduct, amateurism, financial aid, academic standards, and recruitment is publicly available on the NCAA website. One subsection provides, “You are not eligible in a sport if you, or your relatives or friends, ever have accepted money, transportation, lodging, entertainment or other benefits from an agent or agreed to have an agent market your athletics ability or reputation in that sport.”[6]

So far, the Federal Corruption Trial is revealing all the coaches, players, families, and corporations who have completely disregarded that rule, and are now flirting with the boundaries of the law. “The blunt revelations that have come via FBI wiretap, video surveillance, seized documents and from witnesses under oath have made the sport’s commonly accepted mythology more real. The scope is sobering, the problems widespread.” Schools listed in the investigation as of now consist of Kentucky, Washington, Kansas, Maryland, Texas, Duke, North Carolina, Alabama, and Oregon. Big name players involved in the scandal include Brian Bowen, Nassir Little, Billy Preston, and Collin Sexton as well as Adidas executives Jim Gatto and Merl Code; more names are being revealed daily.

Complaints allege hundreds of thousands of dollars were wired to third-party consultants, who then facilitated cash payments to families of players. Other bribes include thousands of dollars in sneaker company payments to players, bidding wars for singings, and compensation packages for families.[7]Not only does this involve the players, their families, and the universities, but because certain Division I schools issued athletic-based financial aid to players who have accepted illicit payments, tax payer’s money is at issue. These under-the-table payments cheat universities out of giving financial aid, which parallels to stealing taxpayer’s money. When the NCAA’s annual revenue is over $1 billion, that taxpayer’s money adds up quickly.

What is notable about this trial is that the defense’s plan is to plainly admit to everything.[8]Defense attorneys are providing that yes, what these named men have done may violate NCAA rules, but they do not violate the law. How? While universities broke many NCAA rules, so many of the top college basketball programs in this country engaged in this behavior that this was just a way to get on the same level. The defense claims that this helped, not harmed, universities by securing top recruits and that this far from qualifies as a federal crime. Stephen L. Hill Esq. summed up the strategy this way: “We admit to everything. We’re going to burn down the house completely and you can’t convict us for burning the house down. It was a bad house to start with.”[9]

What we know now is that this trial is far from the end; decades of bribery and fraud are slowly being uncovered. The scandal will continue to unfold as the investigation moves forward, but nonetheless, enforcements will need to be implemented at all levels.





[1]“’How Do These Guys Keep Their Jobs?’ Major NCAA Programs Prepare for Federal Corruption Trial Fallout.” Yahoo! Sports, Yahoo!,

[2]“FBI Probe Uncovers Massive College Basketball Scandal Snaring Big-Time Programs.” Yahoo! Sports, Yahoo!,

[3]Green, Robin J. “Does the NCAA Play Fair? A Due Process Analysis of NCAA Enforcement Regulations.” Duke Law Journal, vol. 42, no. 1, 1992, p. 99., doi:10.2307/1372755.

[4]“College Basketball Fraud Trial: We’re at This Point Because the NCAA Is Ethically Bankrupt.” Yahoo! Sports, Yahoo!,

[5]Edelman, Marc. “Corruption Will Continue In NCAA College Basketball Until Schools Can Openly Pay Their Players.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 27 Sept. 2017,

[6]NCAA. Summary of NCAA Eligibility Regulations − NCAA Division I. NCAA, 2018,


[8]Cash, Meredith. “The First Trial in College Basketball’s Corruption Scandal Focuses on an Aspiring Agent, AAU Coach, and Adidas Executive, and It Could Grow Bigger.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 3 Oct. 2018,


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