The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested 10 people Tuesday on charges of fraud and corruption in college basketball. Among the 10 people arrested— James Gatto, the director of global marketing for Adidas basketball.
According to authorities, Gatto conspired with coaches to pay high school athletes to play basketball at colleges Adidas sponsors.
“Today, we became aware that federal investigators arrested an Adidas employee,” Adidas said in a statement. “We are learning more about the situation. We’re unaware of any misconduct and will fully cooperate with authorities to understand more.”
Basketball coaches from the University of Arizona, Auburn, University of Southern California, and Oklahoma State University were arrested along with managers and financial advisors, the Department of Justice announced. The FBI has been investigating allegations of fraud and corruption since 2015.
Filings show that Gatto and other defendants allegedly made payments amounting to $100,000 to a player’s family to convince the athlete to join the team at a “public research university” in Kentucky and $150,000 to another family so their child would play for an Adidas-sponsored basketball team at a private university in Florida.
The Kentucky school is likely the University of Louisville and the Florida school is likely the University of Miami, according to Bleacher Report.
University of Southern California assistant coach Anthony “Tony” Bland, Auburn University assistant coach Chuck Connors Person, Associate head coach and Oklahoma State University assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Lamont Evans, and University of Arizona assistant coach Emmanuel Richardson were all named as defendants in the case.
The competition between sportswear brands for sponsorship of high-profile players and teams is fierce and lucrative.
Though the league can’t pay athletes and college players are not able to accept endorsements, placing gear on top talent is a significant marketing opportunity for the companies.