The first trial tied to the FBI’s investigation into corruption throughout college basketball started on Tuesday, putting former Adidas executive Jim Gatto under the spotlight against the prosecution. The trial is expected to last up to one month, and will feature statements and testimony from many of the key names that popped up in the initial investigation.
The college basketball world is bracing for the fallout. The first day of the trial saw one new school thrown into the scandal, named names of several prominent players and let the defense show its playbook in how it intends to fend off prosecutors.
This is only the start of what’s likely going to be a long and arduous trial for the universities and shoe company executives involved in the allegations. Here are our takeaways from day one.
The defense is arguing everyone cheats in college basketball
The FBI has wiretaps and video documenting the alleged crimes. Gatto’s lawyer is aware of this and isn’t even trying to argue the Adidas executive is innocent. Instead, as the prosecution seeks to show the universities involved were defrauded, the defense is trying to paint a picture that everyone is cheating in college basketball. It’s saying Gatto’s actions were merely to “level the playing field.”
Jim Gatto’s attorneys did not deny that he conspired to or made payments to the families of prospects.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) October 2, 2018
“NCAA rules were broken. We are not going to waste your time pretending these families did not get funds.”
The allegation that universities were defrauded is key to all of this. To the defense, schools work closely with the NCAA to ensure they aren’t breaking rules. Gatto’s attorneys are saying he did these schools a favor by the securing the rights to top players that make both the universities and the NCAA a boatload of money. The defense suggested Gatto acted at the request of coaches.
Oregon was dragged into this mess on day one
Oregon was not a school previously named in the investigation, but the Ducks found themselves at the center of the trial on day one. According to the defense, the payment Adidas and Louisville (an Adidas school) worked to get for McDonald’s All-American Brian Bowen only came as a way to compete against Oregon.
During opening statement this morning, Jim Gattto's atty promised evidence would show Oregon offered "an atronomical amount of money" to recruit Brian Bowen to play for the Ducks. The $100,000 deal to attend Louisville was to "level the playing field."— Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) October 2, 2018
Oregon is, of course, one of Nike’s flagship schools. Which brings us to a larger point.
Adidas is trying to drag the other shoe companies down with them
This was a big theme of day one. In addition to the bombshell Oregon claim, the defense also took aim at schools tied to Nike and Under Armour.
Gatto's atty also said Under Armor paid $20,000 to recruit Silvio De Sousa to sign with Maryland and Arizona offered $150,000 for Nassir Little. De Sousa is at Kansas, Little at UNC now. Goal is to make all of college hoops look corrupt.— Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) October 2, 2018
Arizona is a Nike school and Maryland is an Under Armour school. Little appeared set to go to Arizona before the scandal hit and has since landed at North Carolina. Little is expected to be a top-five pick in the 2019 NBA draft.
De Sousa signed with Kansas, an Adidas school, and joined the team in the second half of last season. He is expected to be a key cog on a Jayhawks team many have installed as the preseason No. 1.
The defense says it broke rules, not laws
Gatto is been charged with two counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which is a federal crime because the payments were made across state lines. The defense is arguing Gatto broke rules, not laws.
“Jim Gatto broke NCAA rules,” Casey Gatto’s attorney Donnelly said. “NCAA rules are not laws.”
The potential witness list is full of big names
It will be fascinating to see this trial plays out over the next month with so many names marked as “relevant individuals” at the start of the trial.
Some familiar and big basketball names listed as 'Other Relevant Individuals' in the college basketball trial here in NYC pic.twitter.com/WnuWE4kVXo— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) October 2, 2018
Any program tied to these people should be sweating right now, especially since the NCAA essentially gave itself subpoena power in its recent rule changes.
The defense admitted a $40,000 payment was made to Dennis Smith Jr., the former lottery pick who is set to begin his second season with the Dallas Mavericks.
College basketball has been waiting for the next shoe to drop in the FBI investigation. Whether the defense can legally prove that universities were defrauded or not, this trial is sure to be full of juicy details about the type of corruption that goes on in college hoops. If day one is any indication, no school is safe.