Further allegations emerged Wednesday that now-fired University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino not only knew about a plan to send payments from Adidas to the family of top Cardinals recruit Brian Bowen, but agreed to actively participate in it. This from newly released evidence in an unsealed indictment in the college basketball fraud and bribery case.
Pitino has steadfastly denied he had any knowledge of the plot. Louisville fired the Hall of Fame coach last month anyway.
The indictment of Adidas executive James Gatto contains a slightly different retelling from the original September complaint of an infamous July 27, 2017, meeting inside a Las Vegas hotel room. The FBI set the room up with hidden cameras and an undercover agent also wore a wire, so presumably all quotes from the documents are the direct result of video and audio recordings.
The original complaint contained a passage where Christian Dawkins, who worked as a runner for professional sports agents, retold others in the room about how Adidas and Louisville worked together to funnel money to recruit Brian Bowen.
“Dawkins said he had spoken with Coach-2 [who has been reported to be Pitino] about getting additional money for [Bowen’s] family and informed [Pitino] that ‘I need you to call Jim Gatto, who’s the head of everything’ at [Adidas’s] basketball program.”
The complaint then said Gatto had two telephone conversations with a phone number associated with Pitino and an additional call on June 1. Two days later Bowen committed to Louisville
In the indictment, however, it reads as such (emphasis by Yahoo Sports):
“Dawkins explained that while [Pitino] and the University of Louisville were recruiting [Bowen], Dawkins asked [Pitino] to call James Gatto to request that [Adidas] provide the money requested by the family of [Bowen], which [Pitino] agreed to do.”
Essentially, the FBI has Christian Dawkins on tape saying Pitino allegedly agreed to request the money from Adidas for Brian Bowen. This would be considered hearsay in court, but neither Pitino nor anyone at Louisville has been charged for any crimes. It’s a slightly more direct allegation than what was already presented.
The passage took off on social media and throughout the college basketball media after it was pointed out by NBC News. Since the room was both under video and audio surveillance, it is information the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York always had but didn’t previously reveal.
It is not the result of a cooperating witness – even though AAU coach Brad Augustine, who has thus far avoided indictment, was in the hotel room at the time – because the video and audio tapes would be the standard of proof for a conversation, not someone’s recollection.
For Pitino, it is one more bit of evidence that he seemingly did know what was happening within his program and, more specifically, with the recruitment of Bowen. However, in his defense, it could also just be the result of Dawkins talking out of turn or even embellishing a conversation. The feds have no offered direct quotes from Pitino.
Dawkins’ attorney, Steve Haney, has declined comment on specifics of the case but did tell Yahoo Sports on Wednesday that Dawkins is innocent of the charges for which he was indicted this week and would fight for his innocence. He placed blame on college basketball operating an underground economy that is anything but a federal crime.
“Simply put, Christian Dawkins is not guilty of what is charged,” Haney said. “For decades, college basketball has been nothing short of a sham of amateurism and [a] fraudulent one-year holding pen for the NBA. This environment has been endorsed by the universities, who have turned a blind eye and been the billion-dollar benefactors of alleged federal crimes. The sins of the NCAA are not going to be visited upon my client.”
As for the totality of the case, it is a fairly minor and potentially meaningless development. Eight men, including four college assistant coaches, have been indicted while two of the other originally charged – AAU coach Augustine and financial planner Munish Sood – have not, leading to speculation they have already begun cooperating with prosecutors.
College basketball remains on edge in fear that additional programs, players and coaches will be swept up in the scandal as witnesses flip and tell tales.