Nearly a month after it began, the so-called “college basketball trial” — technically, “U.S. v. Gatto et al” — came to an end Wednesday afternoon when the jury returned a verdict of for guilty on all counts for defendants Jim Gatto, Merl Code, and Christian Dawkins.
The verdict seemed like a secondary concern for the college basketball world, which was far more interested in the seedy details that had been unearthed during the trial’s preceding three weeks. Those details must now be dealt with by the NCAA at a later time, likely after the second and third trials in this case, which are slated for February and April, respectively.
While the fallout from the past month in New York is impossible to predict with 100 percent accuracy at the moment, it is apparent there are some individuals and programs who came out of this thing looking better than they did in September, and some who came out looking worse.
Here’s a recap of the winners and losers from college basketball trial one of three.
Jim Gatto, Christian Dawkins, and Merl Code
We’ll start with the most obvious entry. While the sports public might not have been overly concerned about the three defendants, the defendants and their families certainly were.
It’s hard to imagine any of these three people thought they were committing federal crimes when they worked to funnel money to the families of recruits with the attempt to steer them towards a certain college basketball program. At worst, they probably thought they might wind up in trouble with the NCAA if they were caught. Now all three are staring down fairly significant jail time.
For the most part, head coaches were able to avoid being on the wrong end of a smoking gun throughout the proceedings in New York. Part of that is because Judge Lewis A. Kaplan didn’t allow much of the evidence that was rumored to be especially damning for multiple head coaches to enter the courtroom. The other part is that while coaches were often shown to be actively seeking help from the shady figures in this trial, they were also smart enough to not go into detail about what that “help” might entail.
The major exception here is Will Wade, who has been on a recruiting roll since taking over at LSU in March 2017. An FBI monitored call between defendant Christian Dawkins and Wade revealed the following conversation about class of 2019 recruit Balsa Koprivica:
Dawkins: “So you said to me in Atlanta there was a 2019 kid I wanted to recruit, they can get him to LSU, you would have funded. Would you want Balsa?”
Wade: “Oh, the big kid?”
Wade: “OK. But there’s other (expletive) involved in it. I have got to shut my door ... Here’s my thing: I can get you what you need, but it’s got to work.”
The monitoring of Dawkins’ calls began on June 29, 2017. Koprivica received an offer from LSU on June 21.
Wade was asked about the transcript during SEC media day on Oct. 17, and said that “it was a little bit surprising” to hear it had come up. He added he had never done any sort of business of any kind with Dawkins, and that he was “very comfortable” with where everything is involving the program and the trial.
Sometimes it takes months or years for public comments to age poorly. For Coach K last week, it took less than 24 hours.
When asked about the trial and about the cleanliness of college basketball in general on Oct. 23, Krzyzewski pulled out his best Pollyanna routine.
“I really haven’t followed it that much,” Krzyzewski said about the trial. “I think it’s minute, it’s a blip. It’s not what’s happening. ... We haven’t lost guys because someone cheated. I haven’t paid attention to it because I haven’t been affected by it.”
Just a day later, Duke super freshman Zion Williamson was dragged into the trial when a recording revealed his father had asked Kansas assistant coach Kurtis Townsend for money, housing and a job. Three months after that conversation took place, Williamson shocked everyone and committed to Duke.
Krzyzewski attempted to walk back his “blip” comment following Duke’s exhibition victory over Virginia Union Tuesday night.
In Mike Krzyzewski’s post game, he elaborated a bit on his ‘blip’ remark regarding the recruiting underworld exposed in the college basketball corruption trial (and i didnt want to just take one quote) pic.twitter.com/Ehct0UPjJa— C.L. Brown (@clbrownhoops) October 24, 2018
One would assume the NCAA will have to at least look into Williamson’s recruitment, which means that — even if they did absolutely nothing wrong — there will be questions Krzyzewski and other officials at Duke will have to answer.
Before the trial got underway, Louisville’s role in all of this was already the most established and well-known of any of the programs involved. Yet another revelation came to light during the trial’s first week when evidence was presented that former assistant coach Kenny Johnson (now an assistant coach at La Salle) paid Brian Bowen Sr. $1,300 to help with rent. Bowen Sr., the father of then-Louisville freshman Brian Bowen III, confirmed the story during his time on the witness stand.
While the money may seem like a small amount compared to some of the other numbers tossed around during the trial, the issue for Louisville is the alleged payment — again, by an assistant coach to the father of a player — took place just weeks after the Cardinals had been placed on probation in the wake of the Katina Powell scandal. As a repeat offender, U of L has now placed itself in a position where it could once again be facing significant sanctions from the NCAA.
The Myth That College Basketball Coaches Are Good At Texting
Pulling back the curtain and showing the relationship between some of college basketball’s most well-known coaches and the “go-between” figures who help bring them recruits has revealed a number of things. One of those is that these guys absolutely suck at texting. Forget putting forth a persona that resonates with teenagers, I have no idea how these kids even understand the basic message these coaches are attempting to convey.
Here’s just one example, a sampling of the messages between Bill Self and Adidas “fixer” T.J. Gassnola.
Self: “im happy with adidas. just got to get a couple real guys.”
Gassnola: “In my mind, it’s KU, bill self. Everyone else fall into line. Too (expletive) bad. That’s what’s right for Adidas basketball. And I know I am RIGHT. The more you win, have lottery pics and you happy. That’s how it should work in my mind.”
Self: “That’s how ur works. At UNC and Duke.”
Gassnola: “and kentucky”
Gassnola: “I promise you. I got this, I have never let you down Except (Dyondre) lol.”
The other messages from the other coaches and basketball figures are just like this.
Though not heavily involved in the original indictment that came down in September 2017, Kansas made a number of appearances throughout the course of the trial in New York. None of those appearances were a good look for the program
A succinct rundown:
—The mother of former Kansas player Billy Preston received $90,000. Also, text messages reveal Preston’s mother instructing him to tell the NCAA “nothing” about the car he owned. That car ultimately led to questions about Preston’s eligibility, which led to Preston leaving the program in the middle of last season.
—KU sophomore center Silvio De Sousa’s guardian allegedly received $2,500 to pay for courses at Kansas. He also allegedly received $60,000 from a Maryland booster. TJ Gassnola testified he was set to pay $20,000 to get De Sousa out of the Maryland payment, but that payment never happened because the FBI story broke.
On Wednesday morning, Kansas announced that it would be holding De Sousa out of competition pending the outcome of an eligibility review.
A statement from Coach Bill Self on Silvio de Sousa: pic.twitter.com/KVExNfX15N— Kansas Basketball (@KUHoops) October 24, 2018
—A recorded phone call reveals Kansas assistant Kurtis Townsend having a conversation with Zion Williamson’s father about potentially finding him a job and making a cash payment if Williamson came to KU.
—Text messages between Bill Self and Gassnola like the exchange listed earlier reveal that Self was grateful for Gassnola’s help, although neither side ever went into detail about what that “help” entailed.
Hey, here’s a ton of super shady evidence which makes it obvious that virtually every major program in college basketball is cheating in some capacity. Now you get to figure out what the next step is.
I’m sure they’ll handle the situation competently though.
Referred to as “Player-12” in the FBI’s original indictment, Little was at the center of the issues surrounding “University-7,” which was Miami. The indictment alleged that Gatto, Code, Dawkins, and Brad Augustine (Little’s former AAU coach) conspired to funnel $150,000 to Little’s family to get him to sign with Miami and then, ultimately, with Adidas after leaving college.
Text messages between Augustine and Dawkins, however, reveal that the Little family wasn’t interested in receiving any money, and that the pair were actually worried about the family discovering that there was any discussion of payments at all. Charges against Augustine were dropped in February after it was revealed that instead of funneling money to the families of players, he had kept the money given to him by the Adidas employees for himself.
After the texts were revealed in court, Little and his parents each expressed their relief that the family had been cleared, as well as their frustration that their names had been brought into this whole mess in the first place.
Reporters better tweet with that same energy when my name first got put into this mess.— Nassir Little (@2ez_nassie) October 16, 2018
Key point still missing...we were never offered any money.— Harold Little (@Teelittle0608) October 15, 2018
I promised my best friend I would not comment. Sorry “J” pic.twitter.com/lAexVZnlHh— April (@shanklil) October 16, 2018
Little will be a freshman at North Carolina this season.
In light of the Little news, both sides in the trial agreed to have Miami completely redacted from the FBI indictment. Jim Larrañaga, originally referred to in the indictment as “Coach-3,” emphatically denied any wrongdoing from the day the story broke through the day his program was removed from the case.
In the early days, it looked as though Oregon was going to be one of the trial’s most surprising losers. Despite the Ducks having never been mentioned as one of the major players in Brian Bowen’s recruitment, the defense attorney for Jim Gatto argued in his opening statement that the evidence would show that Oregon offered an “astronomical amount of money” for the now infamous recruit. That promise never came to fruition.
During his initial interviews with the FBI, Brian Bowen Sr. stated on the record that he was given $3,000 in cash by Oregon assistant coach Tony Stubblefield during an unofficial visit to Eugene in May 2017. When Bowen Sr. was on the stand, however, he stated that he didn’t recall ever receiving a payment from Stubblefield. When he was shown the original statement that he made to the FBI, Bowen Sr. said the statements did nothing to refresh his memory. When asked one last time if he had ever received any cash payments from anyone at Oregon, Bowen Sr. replied: “I just don’t recall.”
For a brief time last February, it appeared as though Miller wouldn’t make it through the season as Arizona’s head basketball coach. Now, 10 months and one trial later, Miller is still standing.
While a number of Arizona players and multiple former assistants came up throughout the course of the proceedings, there was no evidence produced which confirmed that Miller knew about or was directly involved in any nefarious behavior. His job appears safe through at least April, which is when the trial for Miller’s longtime assistant Book Richardson is set to begin.
The previous two selections give rise to an obvious third.
While Adidas was (as expected) hammered throughout the course of the trial and Under Armour was dealt a glancing blow (the company allegedly paid Kansas’ Silvio De Sousa to try and get him to attend Maryland), Nike made it through the proceedings relatively unscathed.
The Arizona stuff doesn’t look good, and people are certainly asking questions about how Zion Williamson ended up at Duke, but the relationship between the most well-known apparel company in the world and college basketball’s seedy underbelly wasn’t laid out in anywhere near the same fashion as it was for Nike’s biggest competitor.
Maybe Nike’s day is still coming, whether it’s in one of the other trials or from an FBI probe that we’re unaware of right now. At the moment, however, the company hasn’t been hit by any of this nearly as hard as many were predicting 13 months ago.